Reynolds, Gregg tour AAI in Jefferson

Gov Kim Reynolds said she would watch basketball and gymnastics differently now that she knows how large a presence American Athletic Inc has. “Now I’ll be watching, looking (for the AAI and Spalding brand names). I just didn’t know,” she said after learning that all AAI gymnastics equipment and the Spalding basketball backboards used by the NBA, the WNBA, and by the NCAA in March Madness games are manufactured in Jefferson.

Reynolds and Lt Gov Adam Gregg toured AAI in Jefferson Tuesday as part of their “Building a Better Iowa: Workforce” tour.

AAI vice president Mark Lane (left) shows Lt Gov Adam Gregg and Gov Kim Reynolds the second trampoline manufactured in Jefferson under the American Trampoline brand in 1954.

Mark Lane, AAI vice president, briefed Reynolds and Gregg on the history of the company and provided statistics about the products AAI/Spalding manufactures in Jefferson. AAI gymnastics equipment is used at 750 meets each year, and AAI equipped and had technicians present at 69 major events.

Spalding basketball and volleyball equipment has been used at more than 250 major championships.

Lane noted the “abuse” gymnasts and basketball players subject equipment to as the skill level of their sports increases. “We try to stay ahead of athletes and what they’ll do to the equipment. We want athletes limited by their abilities, not the equipment,” he said.

With workforce being the general topic of Reynolds’ statewide tour, she asked about any challenges in finding employees.

According to human resources manager Kristin Russell, AAI has a workforce of 102 employees and there are no openings at this time. However, turnover is very low, and she anticipates many Baby Boomers retiring in the next five years or so.

“We generally have good luck hiring welders, sewers and steel workers,” Lane said “We have more of a challenge hiring professionals like engineers.”

Reynolds remarked that AAI is the first company in rural Iowa that has told her it has no current openings.

AAI is owned by Russell Athletic, which is owned by Fruit of the Loom. Lane answers to Fruit of the Loom executives. “It’s a fantastic company to work for, but they have expectations of us. We’ve worked hard to meet those expectations,” he said.

To a Reynolds question about growth, Lane answered that a new product that will be rolled out soon should position Spalding well in the market. AAI is the only U.S. company to be certified by FIG, the international governing body of gymnastics. That gives them the large share of the U.S. market, but competition is growing overseas with Chinese companies entering the market.

AAI vice president Mark Lane and HR manager Kristin Russell hosted Gov Kim Reynolds (left) and Lt Gov Adam Gregg on Tuesday.

Lane gave Reynolds and Gregg a tour of the main manufacturing building. Time did not allow a tour of the building in which gymnastics mats and other items are sewn. There was very limited interaction with AAI employees.

After the tour Lane and Russell gave the guests Spalding basketballs. As she looked at the displays, Reynolds said, “It’s all I can do not to pick up a ball and shoot it.” She said she played basketball on the defensive end of the floor in six-on-six basketball.

 

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