Shift ATL: Building On The Past, Looking Toward The Future

(photo by Jennifer Nichols)

Members of the group Shift AT- including Mackenzie Bandow, Jessie Shiels and Alexsis Fleener-are working on economic development for the city of Atlantic, and are pictured with one of the buildings from their first project-the former home of The Downtowner.

ATLANTIC – One of the first things Mackenzie Bandow saw when she came to Atlantic was the downtown area.

Her husband owns Atlantic Dental Center, and Sara Nelson was showing her family around.

“And I just remember thinking, ‘oh my gosh, it’s an Iowa downtown that’s alive and thriving, and has all these cute little shops,’” she said.

That feeling is shared by Jessie Shiels and Alexsis Fleener- who also made the move to Atlantic in the past five years.

They became part of a group of people who were interested in economic development and community betterment.

“The three of us just really latched onto it and found a common passion for making Atlantic a better place,” said Shiels.

The group became Shift ATL, a 501C3 non-profit organization that wants to help build on Atlantic’s foundation of economic development, and continue to help it grow.

“We saw maybe a need for a 501C3 that focused on community development,” Bandow said. “Specifically we have seen some grant opportunities that other communities around us in Iowa have been taking advantage of (for revitalization).”

The group believes that having the non-profit status is important to be able to apply for grants, but also to offer tax deductions to people willing to make contributions of any amount to help with matching funds needed for grants.

Beyond that though, they are looking for anyone interested in getting involved, says Fleener, whether it is through, “time, money, services (people can provide).”

They are in the process of getting their name and mission out to the public, and have started one of their first projects- purchasing the former Downtower Building, and rehabilitating the building so it can be used for business and living space and even a green space on the side of the building.

Shiels said they already have a potential tenant for the business portion, who hopes to have a “wine bar-coffee shop” type establishment. She said the project has other benefits beyond just a new space. For example, there is potential for students to come and help with demolition or even the opportunity for them to shadow people who are doing the remodeling work necessary to get the building in the right shape.

There is opportunity for people, “to feel this sense of ownership” in supporting different projects, and creating more success for the community in the future.

“We all have put our roots down here, and this is going to our home,” Shiels said. “And we want to continue to build on the success of the organizations before us.”

“People have been doing great work here,” Bandow said. “We just want to contribute.”

Anyone who is interested in learning more about the group, wants to help in mission, or is interested in donating can contact any of the three- Shiels at 712-304-2651, Bandow at 641-660-3050 or Alexsis Fleener at 620-388-0535- or by email at

They also plan to have a booth at AtlanticFest with games and other items available for a donation.