Middle Market Leaders Say America’s Aging Infrastructure Is Hampering Economic Growth in New RSM Survey
Survey shows striking level of agreement among midsize businesses on urgent need for and willingness to participate in infrastructure-enhancing initiatives
Executives at middle market businesses overwhelmingly agree that the state of the U.S. infrastructure is hampering economic growth nationally, locally and within their organizations, according to the RSM US Middle Market Business Index (MMBI) Infrastructure Special Report released today by RSM US LLP (“RSM”) in partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Nearly two-thirds, or 63%, of the executives who participated stated the nation’s ailing infrastructure restricted growth of the national economy, 60% said it restricted growth of their local economies and 54% said it hurt their own businesses.
However, there is a sense that things are about to change, with 64% of respondents indicating they believe meaningful action will take place in the next three years that will result in tangible infrastructure enhancements.
“Executives are telling RSM that there is an urgent need to shore up what makes the American economy tick,” said Joe Brusuelas, RSM US LLP chief economist. “The results of this survey send a clear message to lawmakers and policymakers that middle market businesses are ready to invest and want to participate in the rebuilding of America’s infrastructure. We rarely see this kind of agreement in our society anymore, and this is the real economy communicating to the policy community that something different has to happen.”
Middle Market Businesses Eager for Action
The consensus over impending change prompts questions about what middle market executives are looking for, and the short answer is that they support infrastructure improvement initiatives across the board. When asked about 21 individual initiatives like improving roads and communications networks, at least 63% of executives indicated the improvements would benefit their company’s day-to-day operations. These figures represent a significant increase from a similar question asked in 2017, when responses were lower in every case, except for the category – electric vehicle charging stations – that wasn’t included in 2017.
“Our nation must launch a massive investment program to modernize America’s infrastructure,” said Ed Mortimer, vice president, transportation and infrastructure, at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure is not only one of the fastest and most direct ways to create new jobs and spur economic growth now, but also it will sustain our modern economy and improve the quality of life for every American. Infrastructure is not a partisan issue—there is strong bipartisan support to invest in our nation’s future and we now need our elected leaders to come together and show the American people they can enact fundamental, good policy.”
The survey found that middle market businesses want to participate in the rebuilding of America’s infrastructure, and 51% of executives responded that they were likely to participate in the vendor selection process for businesses, which is a significantly higher total than the 30% who responded this way in 2017. When the question was limited to those companies that are in the business of infrastructure, 80% of the executives expressed interest in participating, compared to 59% four years ago.
Companies are also increasingly taking matters into their own hands, especially when it comes to expanding their own infrastructure and reducing their carbon emissions while maintaining profitability. Of the executives surveyed, 73% said they would make capital investments to expand their own infrastructure, such as buildings or facilities, over the next three years.
Middle Market Addressing Climate Change
While America’s largest corporations have – willingly or not – taken active steps to reduce carbon emissions, the middle market is joining the push. In a survey question about addressing environmental concerns, 63% of middle market executives said they had either already reduced their carbon footprint to zero, were working to get there, or were acting to reduce their carbon footprint. In the report, RSM attributes this shift to generational, regulatory and societal changes.
The survey data that informs this index reading was gathered between April 7 and April 28, 2021.
About the RSM US Middle Market Business Index
RSM US LLP and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have partnered to present the RSM US Middle Market Business Index (MMBI). It is based on research of middle market firms conducted by Harris Poll, which began in the first quarter of 2015. The survey is conducted four times a year, in the first month of each quarter: January, April, July and October. The survey panel consists of 700 middle market executives and is designed to accurately reflect conditions in the middle market.
Built in collaboration with Moody’s Analytics, the MMBI is borne out of the subset of questions in the survey that ask respondents to report the change in a variety of indicators. Respondents are asked a total of 20 questions patterned after those in other qualitative business surveys, such as those from the Institute of Supply Management and National Federation of Independent Businesses.
The 20 questions relate to changes in various measures of their business, such as revenues, profits, capital expenditures, hiring, employee compensation, prices paid, prices received and inventories. There are also questions that pertain to the economy and outlook, as well as to credit availability and borrowing. For 10 of the questions, respondents are asked to report the change from the previous quarter; for the other 10 they are asked to state the likely direction of these same indicators six months ahead.
The responses to each question are reported as diffusion indexes. The MMBI is a composite index computed as an equal weighted sum of the diffusion indexes for 10 survey questions plus 100 to keep the MMBI from becoming negative. A reading above 100 for the MMBI indicates that the middle market is generally expanding; below 100 indicates that it is generally contracting. The distance from 100 is indicative of the strength of the expansion or contraction.
About The U.S. Chamber of Commerce
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business organization representing companies of all sizes across every sector of the economy. Members range from the small businesses and local chambers of commerce that line the Main Streets of America to leading industry associations and large corporations.
They all share one thing: They count on the U.S. Chamber to be their voice in Washington, across the country, and around the world. For more than 100 years, we have advocated for pro-business policies that help businesses create jobs and grow our economy.
About RSM US LLP
RSM’s purpose is to deliver the power of being understood to our clients, colleagues and communities through world-class audit, tax and consulting services focused on middle market businesses. The clients we serve are the engine of global commerce and economic growth, and we are focused on developing leading professionals and services to meet their evolving needs in today’s ever-changing business environment.
RSM US LLP is the U.S. member of RSM International, a global network of independent audit, tax and consulting firms with 48,000 people across 120 countries. For more information, visit rsmus.com, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and/or connect with us on LinkedIn.