In 2011, Fisher College of Business partnered with GE Capital to create the National Center for the Middle Market (NCMM), a first-of-its-kind research center focused solely on researching and supporting middle market firms, the true drivers of the U.S. economy.

Five years after its creation and with the support of its current sponsors—SunTrust Banks Inc., Grant Thornton LLP, and Cisco Systems—the NCMM has firmly established itself as the leading source of knowledge, leadership and innovative research on the middle market economy, providing critical data analysis, insights and perspectives for companies, policymakers and other key stakeholders.

The Center, through its academic research, outreach with middle market businesses and government organizations, and work with Fisher students, remains a strong advocate for growth, competitiveness and job creation in this vital sector of the U.S. economy.

“In the five years since its inception, the National Center for the Middle Market has demonstrated just how important the middle market is to our domestic and the global economies,” said Thomas A. Stewart, executive director of the NCMM. “The middle market is the fastest-growing segment of the world’s most important economy. I’m proud of our efforts and our advocacy, and I look forward to building on the research and outreach that we have accomplished in the past five years.”

NCMM Impact – Research and the U.S. Economy

Shortly after its founding, the NCMM created the Middle Market Indicator (MMI), a quarterly survey of 1,000 C-suite executives at middle market companies. For five years, the MMI has provided unique insights into performance, job creation and sentiment among U.S. middle market companies, including revenue and employment growth rates, confidence in various levels of the economy, and challenges to growth.

Leveraging the vast insights of Fisher and Ohio State faculty, the NCMM has also partnered with leading organizations such as the Brookings Institution, the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Marketing Association and the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals on more than a dozen flagship research projects.

“The NCMM has served as a prime example of the interconnectedness of academia and a critical area of our economy that is the middle market,” said Anil K. Makhija, dean and John W. Berry, Sr. Chair in Business at Fisher. “For five years, the NCMM has facilitated the valuable exchange of ideas between researchers from around the world and executives at middle market companies, providing a holistic view of this powerful, but understudied segment of our nation’s economy.”

NCMM 5th anniversary - Makhija
Dean Anil Makhija speaks at the NCMM's Export Summit in 2015.

Equipped with data from the MMI, projects and white papers, and with the support of middle market businesses from across the country, the NCMM has helped policymakers and government leaders understand the importance of the middle market and how policy affects these companies. The Congressional Caucus for Middle Market Growth was created in 2014 as a bipartisan effort to promote awareness in Congress of the middle market as a key driver of growth and jobs.

The NCMM’s outreach within government has expanded beyond Congress to include the White House. In October 2015, the Center brought 12 CEOs of middle market firms from across the country to Washington, D.C., to meet with administration officials to discuss issues such as infrastructure, workforce development, budget and global trade.

NCMM - White House photo
Leaders of middle market companies and representatives from the NCMM and Fisher traveled to Washington to discuss the middle market with policymakers.

“The NCMM has produced important research that reveals the powerful role of middle market firms in generating jobs and economic growth in America’s cities,” said Amy Liu, vice president, Brookings Institution and director, Metropolitan Policy Program. “Through our collaboration, the NCMM and Brookings have brought together mayors, governors, civic leaders and businesses to raise awareness of the opportunities and strategies to help these firms export, innovate and be more competitive. Doing so will ensure our communities remain prosperous in a dynamic global economy.”

NCMM Impact – Middle Market Businesses

Five years of research and outreach with middle market companies has provided the NCMM with insights that demonstrate how leaders in the middle market are faced with unique challenges and opportunities—including capital management, investing in innovation and new markets or developing management teams—that are specific to companies of similar size. Frameworks that have been successful for Fortune 500 companies aren’t applicable for middle market firms.

“The middle market has long been understudied and underserved—and for plausible reasons,” said Doug Farren, managing director at the NCMM. “Since over 85 percent of companies with annual revenue between $10 million and $1 billion are privately held, data on these firms is often difficult to find or non-existent. The Center has studied key managerial issues through the unique lens of middle market firms, who are typically too big to qualify for exemptions and special programs like the Small Business Administration, but too small to have the vast resources of Fortune 500 companies at their disposal.”

This tailored approach to middle market challenges and opportunities has driven the NCMM’s engagement efforts with business leaders. In addition to delivering custom-developed Executive Education programs for middle market executives, the Center has hosted other signature events for middle market companies, including summits on exploring trade opportunities in the Western Hemisphere and increasing awareness of the importance of exporting.

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The NCMM and Fisher's Center for International Business Education and Research hosted a 2016 summit focused on trade and growth among middle market companies in the Western Hemisphere.

NCMM Impact – Students

In addition to advancing the awareness of the middle market to businesses, policymakers and researchers, the NCMM has demonstrated a commitment to preparing the next generation of business leaders with the skills to succeed in the middle market.

Leadership from the NCMM was instrumental in the creation of the Middle Market Cluster at Fisher. The undergraduate program is the first of its kind in the nation that provides students with a deep dive into the middle market in an academic environment typically found at the graduate level.

Since 2014, 71 students in the Middle Market Cluster have consulted on projects for recognized companies such as the Columbus Blue Jackets, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, the Columbus Crew and Noodles & Company, among others.

“The Middle Market Cluster provided me the opportunity to research a sector that is rarely talked about, even though it has a large stake in our domestic and global economy,” said fourth-year finance student Sean Hickey. “Through the MBA-style course, I built connections with top executives of middle market firms. I worked on a project with three other students in partnership with a middle market firm in Wisconsin and had the chance to present our recommendations to 12 of their top executives. It was an opportunity that would have never happened without the Middle Market Cluster.”

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Undergraduate students in the Middle Market Cluster program have had opportunities to work with middle market companies through consulting projects.

At the graduate level, the NCMM has sponsored the Fisher Invitational Big Ten Case Competition since 2012, featuring live cases with five middle market companies and engaging over 200 students from business schools across the Midwest. Middle market companies participating in the case have included Ethan Allen, Bravo Brio Restaurants, and The Limited.

The NCMM has also provided dozens of graduate students the opportunity to serve as interns, where they have engaged with leading companies in a number of meaningful ways.

NCMM 5th anniversary - Case Competition
The NCMM has served as a sponsor of the Big Ten Case Competition at Fisher, which connects middle market companies such as the Bravo Brio Restaurant Group with MBA students to address real challenges they face.

“During my time as a graduate assistant for the NCMM, I had the opportunity to work with the executive team of a publicly traded consumer products company and a former Harvard Business Review case writer to author a live case study for the 2012 Big Ten Case Competition, which was sponsored by the NCMM,” said Matt McHenry (MBA ’12), a former NCMM graduate assistant. “This opportunity ignited my passion for helping business leaders overcome their most pressing issues and ultimately led me to join a middle market management consulting firm.

“The NCMM is transforming students by infusing their experiences with opportunities to develop a meaningful understanding of, and relationships with, the world’s top middle market companies. By connecting some of the world’s top business students with the world’s fastest growing companies, the NCMM is organically creating an intensified interest in this economically significant group of companies.”

NCMM 5th anniversary - Career Fair
The NCMM has hosted career fairs to connect students with middle market companies and firms.

NCMM Sponsors – In Their Words

“SunTrust is dedicated to providing industry and product expertise to develop tailored solutions that help middle market companies across the nation achieve smart growth. It was only natural for us to partner with this leading institution and focus our collective efforts on additional opportunities to grow this vital part of our nation’s economy. Upon the fifth anniversary of the NCMM’s establishment, SunTrust congratulates them on their valuable contributions to this portion of our economy and looks forward to many more years of success.”

Mark A. ChancyWholesale Banking Executive, SunTrust Banks

“Middle market companies represent one-third of private-sector GDP and generate 44.5 million jobs. You can’t overstate how critical these high-growth companies are to the future of the U.S. economy. We congratulate the NCMM on five years of helping the middle market grow and compete in a complex and changing world, and we look forward to our continued partnership in this important work.”

Jim BradyChief Operating Officer, Grant Thornton LLP

“I have spent more than 20 years of my career focused on the U.S. middle market, and I have seen first-hand what a critical growth engine the mid-market is to the entire economy. We at Cisco are fortunate to have a partner in the National Center for the Middle Market—it gives me the chance to work with thought leaders and researchers who are just as dedicated as we are to understanding this growing sector.”

Jeff SharrittsSenior VP of U.S. Commercial Sales, Cisco Systems