Middle Market Executives Want America's Infrastructure Upgraded

Jan 22, 2015 - 9:00am

Executive Director of the National Center for the Middle Market

bloomberg_kentucky_highway_construction_800px.jpg

A segment of highway under construction near Elkhorn City, KY.
A segment of highway under construction near Elkhorn City, KY. Photo credit: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg.

Nine out of 10 middle market executives want to see America's infrastructure get a face lift.

So serious are infrastructure issues to these executives that a great many—nearly half—are willing to pay more taxes to support these upgrades.

These data points are something President Barack Obama and Congress should consider when crafting plans to boost economic growth. The middle market comprises a third of GDP and employment, but its voice is not often enough heard by politicians and policy makers.  Yet middle market firms created 2.3 million jobs last year, adding jobs at a rate of 5 percent—far outpacing job growth among small and large businesses.

These data comes from the latest Middle Market Indicator (MMI), a quarterly survey of 1,000 c-suite executives from the middle market's nearly 200,000 companies. The MMI is conducted by The National Center for the Middle Market, which was founded in 2011 as a partnership between The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business and GE Capital.

Middle market companies are defined as businesses with revenues of between $10 million and $1 billion. They include household names like Vitamix, Orbitz, and Callaway Golf, but also little-known powerhouses such as Ohio-based manufacturer Mesa Industries, New York-based Simmons Machine Tool Corp., and Texas-based Plastronics.

These companies are expected to create 64 percent of all jobs in 2015. It's because of their growth that lawmakers are starting to take notice of the middle market. Last year, a bipartisan group of lawmakers came together to start the Congressional Caucus for Middle Market Growth.

The middle market’s worry about the state of American infrastructures stands out in the list of concerns these executives express. Fully 83% of executives say that the state of U.S. infrastructure has a big or moderate impact on their businesses.  One out of ten say our roads, bridges, ports and airports, electrical grid, and telecoms are in such bad shape that they requires immediate action.  

These business leaders also list energy, workforce skills, and international trade and exports as among the things they want the federal government to tackle. In particular, middle market executives look to the White House and Congress to find ways to help expand trade to Asia.

But a substantial number say that the condition of the nation’s roads, bridges, ports, and airports is affecting business. Eighteen percent say it has a big impact on their business and 65 percent say it has a moderate impact. In the wholesale trade and construction sectors—companies most directly dependent on infrastructure—concern is most high: 22 percent of wholesale trade executives and 29 percent of construction executives say infrastructure has a big impact on their business. And these executives—who live with condition of American infrastructure every day—are most likely, also, to be willing to put their tax money to work to make things better.

Thomas A. Stewart is the Executive Director of the National Center for the Middle Market.

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Executive Director of the National Center for the Middle Market