SLO County nonprofits' economic impact was nearly $800 million in 2012

San Luis Obispo County nonprofit organizations, which provide such services as education, food, shelter, medical care and environmental protection, generated an economic impact of nearly $800 million in 2012.

They also generated nearly 10 percent of all the jobs in the county — 7,590 employees and an additional 3,000 at other firms due to ripple effects — and provided $34 million in state and local tax revenue.

Those findings are detailed in a report compiled by Beacon Economics, an independent economic research and consulting firm, and funded by the Central Coast Economic Forecast.

It was the first time the organization provided a detailed report on the economic impacts of the nonprofit sector in the county.

Clearly, the huge social impacts of nonprofits are unequivocal, noted Jordan Levine, economist and director of economic research for Beacon Economics, in his presentation to about 500 people Friday. But they also have a “sizeable scope and reach in our economy,’’ he added.

The report outlines the economic impact of 761 secular nonprofits in San Luis Obispo County. Of those, about 70 percent are classified as charitable organizations and 17 percent are considered educational.

The total number of nonprofits in the county, including religious, is estimated to be 1,230, Levine said.

The county’s 10 largest nonprofits accounted for 64.2 percent of all spending.

Those are Cal Poly Corporation, Community Health Centers of the Central Coast, Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County, Cal Poly Foundation, Wilshire Health and Community Services, Hospice Partners, Hind Foundation, Associated Students, Family Care Network and the Food Bank Coalition.

Cal Poly Corporation, which runs operations such as the bookstore and campus dining, ranked at the top of the list, reported expenses of $64.9 million, down 0.9 percent from 2010. Community Health Centers spent $59.4 million, an increase of nearly 30 percent from 2010.

The report noted that the majority of that money was spent in San Luis Obispo County.

The $798.8 million impact generated by the nonprofits is equivalent to 7.3 percent of the county’s gross domestic product — more than both durable goods and the finance sectors.

“A substantial amount of the demand for goods and services at businesses within county limits is attributable to the operation of nonprofits,” states the report.

The nonprofits produced $264.3 million in direct wages and earnings and $114.8 million through indirect impacts, accounting for about 9 percent of the county’s total payroll in 2012.

The report didn’t take into account the thousands of people who volunteer for the county’s nonprofits.

“For every direct (nonprofit) job, there are about 56 volunteers, each working about 51 hours a year,” Levine said. “That’s a huge value” to the county.

“These nonprofits not only serve a key role in the region’s economic activity, but they also seek to improve the quality of life for county residents and promote their overall well-being, regardless of age and income,” states the report. “This is especially important for common causes with long-term economic and social benefits that do not generate immediate economic values.”