COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Due to state funding reductions, Ohio State University Extension is reducing its workforce and reorganizing operations.



"Despite a proven track record of serving Ohioans effectively for 95 years, OSU Extension must reduce its workforce and expenses to align with declining state and local revenues. We know this loss of income in no way reflects our value. Yet, given the incredibly difficult economy, we, too, are called to sacrifice," said Keith Smith, director of OSU Extension and associate vice president of agricultural administration at Ohio State.



The reorganization will be based on a strategic plan OSU Extension completed in 2008, but will be implemented with fewer people than originally intended.



"We set out to reorganize our work in a way that ensures we can continue providing high-quality services throughout Ohio, and be positioned to succeed when the economy improves," Smith said.



Extension is key to economic development and job creation throughout the state, Smith said. As noted in a 2005 Battelle study, OSU Extension plays a critical economic role, applying the latest research to Ohio's most important industry, the AgBiosciences. According to the study, every 1 percent increase in agricultural production as a result of Extension programming brings $149 million worth of output to the state, and creates 2,712 jobs. Extension itself helps create more than 1,900 jobs, $64 million in income, and $4.8 million in state taxes annually.



"We maximize food production and safety and stretch precious health care dollars efficiently through special prevention efforts, and we protect and improve the environment in literally every county," Smith said. "We serve 320,000-plus 4-H youngsters in cities and villages across the state, improving their educational outcomes to increase their chances of attending college. In fact, by grade 8, 4-H youth are 1.6 times more likely to attend college than their peers."



The reorganization pools resources into nine areas in the state and deploys technology to increase efficiency. County-based Extension educators will now serve Ohioans in a multi-county area.



"We are maintaining the direct connections between Ohio State faculty and Extension educators, many of whom are faculty members working in dual roles," Smith said.



County, campus and state budgets have been reduced, affecting a number of positions across Ohio. Additionally, on March 5, OSU Extension reduced its county-based program workforce by 20-plus positions.



"Despite these changes, we are making it a key priority to maintain a presence in every county," Smith said.



"Further reductions would most certainly diminish our job-creation and economic development capacity significantly. We hope state leaders will recognize our critical economic impact and protect us from additional cuts as they finalize the next biennial budget," he said.



OSU Extension's reorganization plan and a view of how counties will be grouped can be accessed at its Web site, extension.osu.edu.



SOURCE: Ohio State University.