New Articles
  September 30th, 2016 | Written by

U.S. Middle Market Companies Winning in the Americas

[shareaholic app="share_buttons" id="13106399"]


  • Canada and Mexico are the two most important trade partners for U.S. middle market companies.
  • U.S. middle market companies not taking advantage of opportunities abroad are leaving money on the table.
  • The fastest growing U.S. middle market companies derive over half of their sales from exports.

The most important international markets and opportunities for U.S. middle market companies lie within the Americas, according to a new report from the National Center for the Middle Market (NCMM).

This finding, detailed in the NCMM’s “Winning in the Americas” report, runs contrary to common sentiment that the greatest opportunities for international expansion tend to lie within Europe and Eastern markets such as China.

“Building on existing relationships with Canada and Mexico, middle-market companies have a strong basis for significant expansion in this hemisphere,” said Thomas A. Stewart, Executive Director for the National Center for the Middle Market. “It’s noteworthy that the middle market runs a trade surplus throughout the region. So expansion in the region would probably add jobs as well as revenue.”

The report’s findings are based on a survey of 400 c-level middle market executives from companies engaged in international markets.

Creating Growth in the Americas

Middle market businesses identify market expansion as a target goal for their exporting of goods. While a quarter of middle market exporters sell to five or more foreign markets, 43 percent reach just one or two foreign markets and are therefore not highly diversified in their efforts. Canada and Mexico are the first and second most important trade partners for the middle market, with 63 and 39 percent of firms respectively exporting goods to these countries.

“While more than half of U.S. middle market businesses engage internationally, the fact remains that 46 percent are domestic players only,” said Stewart. “Those not taking advantage of opportunities abroad are leaving money on the table. Internationalized middle market companies are earning an average of more than 16 percent of their overall revenue from the Western Hemisphere.”

Looking across all sales by internationalized middle market companies, just one-third come from outside the United States. Twenty-two percent came from North, Central and South America, whereas sales to Europe and China—two regions generally considered as priority targets for exports—netted only six and four percent of total sales, respectively.

Heavy Exporters a Cut Above in Revenue Growth

One-third of companies with 10 percent revenue growth or more are heavy exporters, deriving more than half of their sales from overseas markets. Outperforming middle market companies are hungrier for new and emerging markets—with Latin American countries considered to be the easiest new markets to enter.

Up to 92 percent of executives surveyed expect to conduct business in new international markets in 2017, with 55 percent expanding within the Americas and particularly South America. A tempered outlook for economic growth in Latin America is doing little to dissuade them, though the region’s GDP is expected to contract by 1.1 percent over the course of 2016. Just five percent believe expansion to China is likely next year.

Looking Ahead to the TPP

With 58 percent of middle market firms participating in two-way trade, the freedom to import and export goods efficiently is essential to organizational growth. Executives ranked the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as their most important tool for international activity and will be keeping their eye on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP). Six in ten expressed familiarity with the proposal’s effects on trade relations with Mexico, Chile and Peru, and strongly felt that, if approved, it would ensure significant growth in foreign sales while lowering supply chain costs.