Like startups, middle-market companies have something extremely important to say about the economy.

Namely, these businesses acknowledge that their national growth prospects are good, but they have a great deal of trepidation about how the shaky global economy will affect them. Also, the business world has changed and companies don’t need to spend as much money on capital expenditures as they used to.

Those are some of the main points from the third-quarter middle-market indicator survey by the National Center for the Middle Market, released Wednesday.

The organization defines middle-market companies as those with annual revenue between $10 million and $1 billion, of which there are about 200,000 in the U.S. The study polled 1,000 CEOs, CFOs, and other C-suite executives from these businesses.

Here are some key takeaways:

  • Midmarket companies experienced revenue growth of 7.5 percent in the quarter. It was an increase of nearly a full percentage point compared to the second quarter of 2014, and the third quarter of solid growth this year. The prime drivers of revenue growth, however, were smaller companies that had between $10 million and $50 million in annual revenue. Growth has softened for companies with revenues between $50 and $100 million. These companies experienced growth of 5.3 percent, compared to 8.9 percent growth rate of the smaller companies.
  • The percentage of C-suite executives who reported having no confidence in the global economy jumped nearly 10 percentage points to 26 percent compared to the second quarter of 2014. Six out of 10 executives, however, said they think they national economy will continue to grow in the next 12 months.
  • Plans for handling cash have remained unchanged from the third quarter of 2013, with 39 percent planning to hold onto it, and 61 percent of businesses saying they plan to invest it.

The report speculates that the rise of the services economy, including the availability of software-as-a-service products and the ability of small businesses to rent IT necessities, means businesses can stash more cash.

"There’s the long-term move toward a services economy," the report says. "More intriguing is the rapid rise of cloud-based information technology services. No longer do middle-market companies (and others) have to invest billions in servers, switches, and software; instead, they can rent what they need as they need it.”

Published on: Oct 29, 2014