AAI of Jefferson receives Renew Rural Iowa Entrepreneur Award

Left to right: Steve Kohl, AAI Engineer of Manufacturing; Derek Thompson, CIRAS; Pete Bardole, Greene County Farm Bureau; Lisa Ebersole, AAI Marketing Manager; Mark Lane, AAI VP of Operations. Left to right: Steve Kohl, AAI Engineer of Manufacturing; Derek Thompson, CIRAS; Pete Bardole, Greene County Farm Bureau; Lisa Ebersole, AAI Marketing Manager; Mark Lane, AAI VP of Operations.

From the NCAA Basketball Tournament to the Olympic Stage, American Athletics Incorporated (AAI) of Jefferson, Iowa, provides the equipment necessary for athletes such as Olympic gold medalist, Simone Biles, to find success, just as it is finding its own.  With roots dating back to 1954 as a trampoline manufacturer, American Trampoline became AAI under the leadership of founder Bill Sorenson, and quickly evolved into a worldwide staple in sporting goods manufacturing.  Today, AAI has earned another recognition, and has been named the recipient of Iowa Farm Bureau’s ‘Renew Rural Iowa’ (RRIA) Entrepreneur Award.

Mark Lane, vice president of AAI, credits innovation, relationships, and hard work with the success harbored by their company and the quality products that they produce. From the 1960’s when AAI focused on gymnastics equipment, to the 1990’s addition of Spalding basketball equipment, their motto, “Gymnasts should be limited by their abilities and not by the equipment that they’re on,” has remained central to each athletic endeavor they undertake; it’s where AAI’s collaboration, testing, and development come into play.  

“Iowa State University’s Center for Industrial Research works collaboratively to assist AAI in the innovations necessary to grow their company, grow their sales, and grow their markets through product testing, planning, and development,” says Iowa State University employee Derek Thompson. Growth is key for Jefferson, a rural community with a population of 4,276, where AAI is recognized as a strong part of the community, economic provider, and source of local pride.

Peter Bardole, a Greene County Farm Bureau member, emphasizes the employment opportunities offered by AAI go beyond the expected, even employing farmers during their off-season, or on a part-time basis.  AAI is a major employer in Greene County, with as many as 150 at any given time.  Bardole says AAI is a source of pride to the community, county, and state. “AAI is a really good employer in Greene County; it’s something that goes around the world,” says Bardole. “I mean, when you’re watching basketball games or the Olympics and you see AAI or Spalding up on the screen you just think wow, that’s made right here in Jefferson, and it brings a lot of pride. Through employment and tax dollars, it really adds to the county as well.”

“From their first trampoline created by Bill Sorenson in the basement of a Jefferson hardware store to their presence on the biggest athletic stages in the world, AAI remains dedicated to their Iowa community, supporters, and their commitment to quality; that’s what makes them a valued Renew Rural Iowa award winner,” says Sandy Ehrig, economic development administrator at Iowa Farm Bureau.

RRIA is an Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) initiative supporting new and existing businesses through education, mentoring, and financial resources. Join us for “The Journey to Your Vision” on November 10 in Clarinda.  For more information about the RRIA Business Success Seminar, “The Journey to Your Vision,” go to www.renewruraliowa.com.


Courtesy of Andrew Wheeler, Iowa Farm Bureau, 10/6/2016.

Renew Rural Iowa American Athletic Incorporated Entrepreneur Award success stories Jefferson Greene County AAI

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