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60 seconds with...Thomas A. Stewart, executive director,
National Center for the Middle Market

Thomas A. Stewart, named executive director of the National Center for the Middle Market earlier this year, is an influential thought leader on global management issues and ideas: an internationally recognized editor and publisher, authority on intellectual capital and knowledge management, and a best-selling author.

He shared his thoughts with Every Monday on several topics including middle-market trends, opportunities and what business executives should be reading this summer.

Every Monday: Tom, you’ve hit the ground running since you were named the Center’s executive director a couple of months ago. As you’ve been out talking with middle-market executives for the past 60 days, what are they telling you about the challenges they’re facing?

Tom Stewart: Actually, I hear more about opportunities than about challenges, and the challenges I hear have to do with talent, innovation, understanding how to use new tools like analytics—good challenges, associated with growth. That’s not to say everything’s peachy-keen: Scratch a middle-market executive and you will hear about health care costs, regulatory complexity, difficulty finding skilled workers, and more.

There’s almost a middle-market syndrome: “I see more opportunities than I have resources, so that I always have to choose one or the other but not both; I worry about navigating my ship in an ocean filled with Fortune 500 supertankers; I worry that I’m ignored by policy makers or taken for granted. But how’s business? Great.”

EM: The National Center for the Middle Market is gaining traction as a trusted resource for middle market executives across America. How do you keep building on the existing resources and assets to support the middle market?

TS: The National Center for the Middle Market, too, has a vast landscape of opportunities, and we’re a small team, so it’s crucial for us to get the leverage and trust that come from working with groups like the Greater Cleveland Partnership.

We’re also lucky in our partnership with GE Capital, which has been both generous and demanding—just what they should be. We’ve spent some time in the last couple of months putting together a framework about the topic areas that matter most to middle market companies and about the communities we want to inform and activate. That’s helping us make choices and set priorities—and we have an exciting set of new studies underway on innovation, talent management, promoting exports, and strengthening operations.

We’re also about to fund a next set of academic studies, which will deepen the knowledge base. And—a small but important thing—in a month or so you’ll see that our website is optimized for tablets and mobile devices, which will help us better reach middle market leaders.

EM: Government policy at the federal level impacts the middle market in a number of ways from regulatory compliance to corporate taxation. What is the NCMM doing to capture the attention of members of Congress to ensure the middle market’s voice is heard on Capitol Hill?

TS: We’re pretty excited by what’s happening in Washington. (When’s the last time anybody said that?) The reason is the formation, just last month, of a Congressional Caucus on Middle Market Growth, sponsored by Jared Polis (D-CO), Tom Rice (R-SC), Brad Schneider (D-IL), and Steve Stivers (R-OH). We joined our friends from the Association for Corporate Growth at a kick-off briefing for Congressional staffers and hope that this caucus will give mid-sized companies a way to be heard in Washington. Pretty is as pretty does, of course—but this is an excellent development.

EM: What’s your assessment of the state of the middle market in Northeast Ohio?

TS: We are in midstream on a major research project to assess the state of the middle market across the state, working with the state and local chambers of commerce and other groups to learn what companies say about what’s going right and what could be better. When that study is complete (in late summer) we’ll be able to say a lot. So, let’s come back in August or September and talk in depth.

We do know Cleveland is a significant hub for the middle market – approximately 2,000 companies generating over $107 billion in revenue and employing close to one million workers. As with other parts of the country, these companies are pillars of the community and resilient through good times and bad. The average firm age is 37 years.

EM: You’ve had a distinguished career in business and publishing. If you could recommend one book middle-market executives should read this summer, what would it be?

TS: My own, of course! But, seriously, I think business leaders should read fewer business books and more history. And more classics: There is no better material on leadership than Shakespeare’s history plays, no better example of managing a growing organization than Paul’s epistles, and no better analysis of the use of power (for good and ill) than Machiavelli’s The Prince.

But if you limit me to business writing, again, I’d pick classics: Peter Drucker on the work of executives, Mike Porter on strategy, Warren Bennis on leadership, Frederick Herzberg on motivation. A lot of the rest is useful, but those four are essential.


The National Center for the Middle Market, the leading source for knowledge, leadership and research on mid-sized companies, is based at the Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University. It is a strategic partner of the Greater Cleveland Partnership's Middle Market Initiative.

Survey to gather data on Northeast Ohio’s middle market

The National Center for the Middle Market (NCMM), a strategic partner of the Greater Cleveland Partnership Middle-Market Initiative, will conduct a survey of Northeast Ohio’s middle market companies this summer to gather data on topics such as workforce development, confidence in the regional, state, national and global economies and challenges that middle-market businesses are facing.

GCP will provide assistance by distributing the survey, which will take only about 15 minutes to complete. Answers will only be reported in the aggregate.

Please be on the lookout for the survey, which will be mailed in the next few weeks.

We hope your company will participate and help provide an accurate picture of the region’s middle market, its concerns, challenges and successes.

The NCMM is a collaboration between The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business and GE Capital.

Mid-market companies can benefit from hiring older workers

Middle-market companies should consider the positives when making hiring decisions about older workers, according to Rob Carey, a National Center for the Middle Market contributor and features writer who focuses on the business-to-business niche. Benefits include:

  • Higher engagement levels, based on an ability to connect organizational objectives to day-to-day duties
  • Greater personal accountability
  • A deeper regard for ethics
  • Less absenteeism
  • Less inclination to leave based on compensation or career-advancement factors

He also says there are benefits to companies from hiring older employees that may not be immediately apparent:

  • Reduced risk of a bad hire. Older employees' work histories can be vetted in greater detail and through numerous former colleagues.
  • Lengthy experience that tends to generate innovation based on evolved observational skills. Older employees can draw on their deep job history to make critiques of current company practices.
  • Deep experience in assessing and handling a variety of critical work situations. More experienced workers can gauge the right response, the proper means of communication, and the correct language to use.

Click here to read more.

Work finalized on state tax cuts

Last week, both chambers of the Ohio General Assembly finalized their work on legislation accelerating and increasing tax cuts for Ohioans. The legislation, House Bill 483, is the main policy and appropriation mid-biennium review bill proposed by Governor Kasich earlier this year. The bill modifies the following tax changes accomplished in the 2013 budget bill:

  • Accelerates a personal income tax cut scheduled for next year (2015). Accomplishes a planned 10 percent tax cut one year sooner.

  • Enhances the small business tax break from 50 percent to 75 percent on the first $250,000 of business income for one year.

The bill also doubles Ohio’s Earned Income Tax Credit and increases personal exemption amounts for low- and middle-income earners. Governor Kasich is expected to sign the bill in the coming weeks.  

Cleveland neighborhood advocate named Opportunity Corridor project director

The Greater Cleveland Partnership announced last week that long-time community leader Marie Kittredge has been named as project director for the Opportunity Corridor project.

Kittredge will be the civic liaison for the Opportunity Corridor Steering Committee, overseeing and coordinating all activities including infrastructure construction as well as community and economic development activity.

She will coordinate community engagement and outreach activities, oversee community and economic development planning and identify private, public and philanthropic resources for the advancement of neighborhood development activities.

Kittredge will also work closely with the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, the City of Cleveland, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other community partners on the coordination and implementation of green infrastructure development opportunities along and around Opportunity Corridor.

Click here to read more.

Meet the new GCP Investor members

We’re pleased to welcome these Northeast Ohio companies who recently became members of the Greater Cleveland Partnership. Click on the links below to read about them.

Pass the Plus: Connecting business with talent

Internships are a key part of developing the next generation of talent in the Cleveland Plus region. In this month’s issue of “Pass the Plus,” learn how Northeast Ohio employers can connect with thousands of the region’s talented college students through NEOintern, a free database of the Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education.

This valuable resource is designed to simplify the process and enhance the experience for students and employers, while working to advance regional economic development through talent retention.

Through NEOintern, employers can post open internships and co-ops in The Plus and students can search for open positions. It only takes a few minutes to create an account and employers gain immediate access to thousands of talented college students.

Commuter Choice awards to recognize use of alternative transportation

If your company or organization supports and encourages employees to use alternative modes of transportation, including public transportation, carpooling, bicycling, walking, telecommuting, and flexible work weeks, here’s your chance to be recognized for it.

The Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA), the region’s transportation and environmental planning agency, is sponsoring the Commuter Choice awards to recognize employers that practice and promote environmentally friendly commute options. You’re eligible if you have facilities in Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain or Medina counties.

Organizations could receive a Gold, Silver or Bronze rating based on the percentage of employees who engage in environmentally friendly commuting alternatives and on the organization’s incentives, programs, policies and investments that support commute alternatives. In addition, one organization will receive top honors for being a regional leader for encouraging alternative transportation choices.

To apply for the Commuter Choice awards, simply complete an online survey. The deadline to enter is July 31, 2014.

Awards will be presented at NOACA’s Annual Meeting on September 12, 2014. Winners will also be recognized on NOACA’s website and other publicity materials.

For more information, visit NOACA’s website or call Amy Stacy at 216.241.2414, ext. 205, or email her at