Power Lift completed the Iowa State University football program’s state of the art weight training facility in November 2012.
Power Lift completed the Iowa State University football program’s state of the art weight training facility in November 2012.
April 2, 2013

When Iowa State University was looking to upgrade its weight training facilities for football, they had a vision.

Yancy McKnight, the Director of Strength and Conditioning at the school, knew of one premeire supplier of weight room facilities in the country that would match and even enhance that vision.

It also didn't hurt the company was located in Iowa just 40 miles away in Jefferson.

Power Lift is responsible for more than 2,700 weight facilities that spans 18 countries and has engineered and installed projects at colleges such as UCLA, Notre Dame, Florida, Alabama as well as a majority of the National Football League.

Their Iowa State project, which was completed in November 2012, is perhaps the project they're most proud of, said Mike Richardson, Power Lift's Sales and Marketing Director.

"It was nice because it was local and we worked closely with them," Richardson said. "We outfitted taht facility with 16 custom racks and platform stations and we put a lot of unique, custom features into that one."

As thrilled as Richardson was with Power Lift's work, it didn't approach the excitement of the recipients and specifically McKnight's.

"It's fantastic," McKnight asserted. "There's nothing like it in the country, no one else can even come close. They were just unbelievable to work with and provided the flexibility of doing something that was definitely outside the box and unique. Not a lot of companies do that or have the vision to do that."

Perhaps that vision came from its owner, Jeff Conner, who started Power Lift in February of 1999 when he saw a need that wasn't being filled.

"He noticed that people were going back to training with racks and weights and platforms and going away from the machines that they'd been using," Richardson said.

Conner, who grew up on a farm north of Jefferson and graduated from high school there in 1972, got his start in the sports supply business with American Athletic Inc., now a division of Russell Athletic, in Jefferson, and other companies in the field.

After success in the industry marketing products, Conner decided in the late 1990s that it was time to manufacture his own equipment and Power Lift - now a hot brand name - was born. In 1999 the company outsourced work to welders and others around Jefferson (something it still does) and then started its own plant in 2002.

Quickly, Conner built an impressive list of customers.

"He started noticing that he could fill that need, he started making it in Jefferson and it kept going from there," Richardson explained.

But who could have fathomed that there meant here. As in, the forefront of the training-facility world and a company sought out by professional franchises and sports teams who grace television screens on Saturdays and Sundays in the fall.

"That's mostly just from being in the business a long time and having those relationships," Conner said in an interview for a previous story published by the Daily Times Herald.

Richardson, who began with the company in September of 2002, said high schools were their primary focus in the early years, before acquiring clients such as Iowa State, Arizona State and the Dallas Cowboys. And while high schools still make up about 45 percent of their client base, Power Lift has come a long ways from one of its earliest customers, a high school in Montana.

"Lots of local colleges started taking notice and inquring about our services," Richardson said. "And the business really just expanded out from there."

Part of the reason Power Lift's presence has become so widespread among major Division-I universities is the arms race that is currently taking place in college football recruiting.

While a program's prestige and the school's academics still weigh heavy on a high schooler's decision, training facilities, specifically weight training facilities, are at the top of the list in impressing recruits.

And school's like Iowa State are well aware of this fact.

"It's huge. If you're not investing in your facilities, you're not investing in your program and the recruiting side of it is going to suffer. That is a fact," McKnight insisted. "In the past, we had a nice room, it was power lift equipment in there and that helped a lot, but in comparison to what we have now it is a huge wow factor when recruits come in the door and see this room."

And all of what Power Lift does is manufactured in its 60,000-square foot facility in Jefferson. The company delivers and installs 95 percent of their own equipment, which Richardson says, makes them distinct others in their field.

"We have great personnel in the area, great work ethic," Richardson said. "Work ethic is a strong component, because there is such a strong work pool to pull from. Guys are committed and believe in the product."