Since the creation of The National Center for the Middle Market (NCMM) in October 2011, much has changed in the world of mid-sized companies. While the NCMM certainly continues to play a significant role, the recognition of the middle market as the bedrock of the U.S. economy is a message that is still being shared today. It seems like yesterday we opened the Center’s offices in The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business. Walking into the inspirationally designed suite in Fisher Hall, it was time to get to work on the ambitious agenda originally identified with our founding partners at GE Capital.

The seminal piece of research that launched NCMM was called The Market that Moves America (with a Summit hosted at the University with the same name). The aggregation of various data sources such as the US Census, Compustat, and Dun&Bradstreet and supplemented with over two thousand C-suite interviews, this report laid bare the Center’s definition of the middle market as well as its basic characteristics, opportunities, and challenges. By landing on an annual revenue-based definition of $10 million to $1 billion, the guardrails were set to define what the future for NCMM would entail: research, outreach, and education. Moreover, turbo-charging Center awareness was a series of Mid-Market summits that at its peak in 2014 attracted 1,200 middle market leaders to campus for two days of presentations, networking, and content…..and broadcast live by MSNBC no less!

Significant progress has been made in all areas, but as a business school research continues to be the foundation of the Center. The Middle Market Indicator (MMI) tracks the performance and sentiment of the US middle market, and enters it 36th wave at the end of 2021!  In addition, over 30 topically driven research projects have been undertaken with the middle market leader as the primary audience….with partners such as The Economist Intelligence Unit, Brookings Institute, National Association of Manufacturers, FedEx, and Vistage. Finally, nearly $2 million in research grants have been awarded to faculty at business schools around the country to study various issues ranging from financial tools to supply chain risk.  We have come to know middle market companies quite well.

 Outreach and engagement has been a priority since the early days as well.  NCMM relies on partners around the country to share and scale our work, bound together by a mutual interest in helping support middle market companies. On average, our experts typically speak at over 50 events per year from coast to coast, with total audience sizes exceeding 7,500 or more. Partners such as the Association for Corporate Growth (ACG), chambers of Commerce in Chicago, Cleveland, and Philadelphia, and functionally focused groups such as AchieveNext have created on-going forums to serve their constituents, often collaborating with the Center on the latest content and thought-leadership. 

Education remains another goal in our agenda. We share all of the knowledge and insights with our students, primarily through the Middle Market Industry Immersion course taught to our undergraduates.  This yearlong curriculum provides access to senior leaders as guest speakers, and focuses on group projects providing a “win-win” for both students and middle market companies who host projects. For many years, NCMM also sponsored the Fisher Invitational Case Competition, a gathering of first-year MBA students from programs across the Midwest for an intense, 48-hour live case experience with a mid-size company. Finally, we have delivered executive education programs to middle market leadership teams via custom programs focused on the biggest challenges and greatest growth opportunities for the “Mighty Middle”.

There have been so many other highlights and accomplishments along the way. For instance, the creation of the Congressional Caucus for Middle Market Growth in the US House of Representatives – in partnership with ACG – provided tremendous access to federal government leaders and staff to educate on the issues of mid-size companies. The organization of the first Middle Market Whitehouse Fly-in occurred in October 2015, with NCMM accompanying a dozen CEO’s to speak with staff in DC.  And the launch of the first middle market podcast (appropriately called Market that Moves America) gave us yet another avenue to reach audiences in new ways.

While much has been accomplished, there is so much more yet to do. We continue to be reminded how many people are still unfamiliar with the “forgotten middle”, let alone recognize these businesses represent a third of private sector GDP and employment and are often the pillars of their local communities. Our work continues today with Chubb and Visa, and we hope to engage other organizations with a strategic interest and desire to support the growth of the middle market. Here is to the next ten years making sure the Middle Market is front and center.