Nonprofit sector and economic powerhouse are phrases that usually aren’t used in the same sentence.

“People understand that human service agencies meet basic needs like food and shelter, and that they work with children, the elderly and the disabled. Most people don’t understand the economic impact of our organizations, though,” says Mary Lou Langenhop, CEO of Children’s Hunger Alliance.

A report issued by the Human Service Chamber of Franklin County could change that perception. It found that the county’s nonprofit sector collectively generated more than $6 billion in business activity in 2009 and ranks as the county’s fourth-largest employer in terms of the number of people it employs. Approximately 52,000 employees work for nearly 2,000 nonprofit organizations. That’s one out of every 13 jobs. The combined payroll totals $2.2 billion.

Additionally, those employees paid $48.5 million in income taxes and an estimated $7.1 million in sales tax. And the value of volunteer hours donated to these nonprofits totaled $1.2 billion, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service.

“We’re an economic generator in the community. Human services agencies definitely impact the quality of life in Central Ohio. I think that surprised some people,” says Langenhop.

“The economic returns are significant, and a strong nonprofit community is critical to the local and state economies. Those facts help us make our case to public officials and private donors about the value of human service programs,” says Qiana Williams, executive director of the Human Service Chamber of Franklin County.

Reprinted from the February 2012 issue of Columbus C.E.O. Copyright © Columbus C.E.O.