Sector creating thousands of jobs and millions in revenue.

Sector creating thousands of jobs and millions in revenue.

If you haven't heard that social enterprise is a rapidly growing business structure, you haven't been listening.

Columbus' best known nonprofits have social enterprise components-among them the Columbus Museum of Art, COSI and the Wexner Center for the Arts. Their gift shops help increase revenue for operations apart from charitable contributions.

Social enterprises may also be for-profit companies created to pursue a mission of community improvement. The bottom line is their focus is not just the bottom line but the good they can do with the funds they attract.

Social enterprises are catching fire in Columbus. That's a key finding in the second annual report of the Center for Social Enterprise Development. When the center first identified social enterprises in Columbus two years ago, it came up with 29. The tally was 70 in 2015. It's now 85 and growing.

"We're seeing a lot of growth now because it's kind of captured the interest," says Allen Proctor, the center's president and CEO. "We actually have more players in town that are helping support (the growth), and I think the millennial network has expanded its reach. We now have four to five events in the past year related to social enterprises and we didn't just a year ago," Proctor adds.

The center has also started quantifying both the economic and social impact of Columbus' SE activity to help encourage even more support of this sector. In just over a third of the 85 social enterprises it tracks, the center calculates 1,333 jobs created, $16.3 million wages paid and $29.9 million revenue earned. On the mission side, the impact includes education for 7,500 persons and meals provided to more than 18,000.

Two new programs introduced this year are expected to drive creation of even more social enterprises in Columbus in the coming year. SE Catalyst™ is an eight-month program to help nonprofits start social enterprises. SEA Change, imported from Cleveland, is a 12-week accelerator for social enterprises.

Also fueling growth is increasing availability of capital from new sources such as Kiva Columbus, which provides 0-percent loans, and capital funds entering Columbus from both coasts-the DRK Foundation of Menlo Park, Ca., and Pipeline Angels of New York City.

The center has big dreams for what SE growth can do for Columbus, including: "When young professionals look for the communities to launch their careers, they will seek out Columbus as a community replete with businesses that incorporate making a difference into their companies' DNA."