Now that Atlanta has made Amazon’s list of 20 cities under consideration for its second headquarters, the city and state can’t afford a misstep to take it out of the running.

“It’s not so much doing something right as not doing something foolish,” said Tom Smith, associate professor of finance at Emory University. “You have to look like you’re in a solid place, that you can handle yourself and a company that size, and you have all your ducks in a row.”

Amazon named 20 finalists in the race to win its second headquarters Thursday, narrowing the pool of cities and states competing to secure an expected 50,000 jobs and $5 billion in investment.

RELATED | Amazon narrows the field for second global HQ

“We’re excited to learn that Atlanta has been included on Amazon's short list,” said Gov. Nathan Deal. “This has been a cooperative effort by the entire region, and we truly believe that Metro Atlanta has the talent, transit and logistics that provides the best location for Amazon’s second headquarters. We look forward to the next steps, and making sure our region remains at the top of the list.”

An area known as the gulch in downtown Atlanta has been mentioned as a possible site for Amazon's second global headquarters. Image 11Alive
An area known as the gulch in downtown Atlanta has been mentioned as a possible site for Amazon's second global headquarters. Image 11Alive

Smith said Deal “has a very good sense that businesses want a climate that is inclusive, but I’m worried that some in his party are waiting for a new governor to try and pass some legislation that makes the state less inclusive. I get very anxious when the legislature throws around terms like religious freedom.

“Amazon isn’t looking to take a vacation. They’re coming to set up a business for the next 20 to 30 years, and they want to make sure their employees are in a city and a state that is welcoming to them.”

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Amazon announced its search for a second, but equal, headquarters in September. Its requirements, laid out in a request for proposals, included that the winner be a metropolitan area with more than 1 million people, have a "stable and business-friendly environment," and be in "urban or suburban locations with the potential to attract and retain strong technical talent."

At least 238 cities and regions in the United States and Canada applied.

The prize is to become what Amazon says will be a "true second headquarters," where it will hire new teams and executives, creating fresh geographic demand for well-compensated tech talent.

RELATED | The pros and cons of Amazon's list of finalists

Austin, Texas, according to Smith, is Atlanta’s main competitor.

“Austin is the city that meets all of the qualifications a company like Amazon wants,” Smith said. “You want a city with good education; that is affordable; has a solid foundation with an airport and infrastructure; gives your employees a sense of stability and security, and a sense of moving forward.

"If I were a betting man, I’d say it’s between Atlanta and Austin."