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The Mighty Middle

Economist (10/20/12)

Mid-sized firms in the U.S. have performed impressively even in the difficult past few years, creating lots of new jobs. The U.S. has approximately 197,000 medium-sized firms, defined as those with annual revenues between $10 million and $1 billion, according to data from the National Center for the Middle Market at Ohio State University. Together, they employ over 40 million people in the country and account for around one-third of private-sector gross domestic product.

About 82% of medium-sized firms survived the recession of 2007-10, compared with 57% of small firms. And while 97% of the 2,100 large firms with revenue over $1 billion was 97%, those giants shed 3.7 million jobs during that period. Mid-sized companies, by contrast, added 2.2 million jobs. This trend is continuing during the recovery; in 2010-11, medium-sized firms increased employment by 3.8%, compared with growth of 2.5% by small firms and 0.8% by big business.

Mid-sized firms in the U.S. tend to be privately owned: 31% by a family, and a further 40% by some combination of private equity and family. The freedom from short-term stock market pressures is one reason why middling firms have been more willing to invest for the long term despite the tough economy, says Anil Makhija, who runs the National Centre for the Middle Market.