Gov. Joe Manchin’s highly unpopular slogan for West Virginia — “Open for Business” — might be about to go belly up.

The governor’s office announced Wednesday an online and telephone poll for people to come up with a new slogan for the 107 welcome signs posted along roads leading into the state.

“With our state heading in the right direction and our citizens taking a renewed sense of pride and ownership in West Virginia and its future, I believe that now is the time for us to engage the people of West Virginia in choosing a permanent welcome slogan — one that they would want all the world to see as they journey into the Mountain State,” Manchin said in a news release.

Manchin unveiled the “Open for Business” slogan during his 2006 State of the State address as an overt statement about his administration’s focus on economic development.

Criticism has been rampant ever since. His office has always maintained that the wording on the larger welcome signs was designed for easy removal.

“This slogan was a temporary slogan,” Manchin’s spokeswoman, Lara Ramsburg, said. “It’s now time to ask the people: Do they want a permanent slogan?”

The poll, which lasts through Sept. 19, will ask two questions. People will first vote on whether they want a permanent slogan on the signs. If so, they’ll be asked what they think the new slogan should be, using up to 20 letters.

If the majority wants a permanent slogan, the governor’s office will conduct a second round of polling on the top slogans suggested.

The governor’s poll is available at three Web sites: www.wvgov.org, www.wv.gov or www.wvtourism.com.

Those without Internet access can call (866) SLOGAN-4 to vote.

During the regular legislative session next year, Manchin intends to ask lawmakers to make the poll results official. After that, it might only take a couple of months to redo the signage.

The estimated cost of changing the signs is about $50,000, Ramsburg said.

On the 27 larger signs located on major interstates, the “Open for Business” lettering can be taken off, Ramsburg said. That process will take about a month.

But the wording on the 80 smaller signs found on other thoroughfares is permanent. The state will have to take bids from companies that want to replace those signs, and that project might take a couple of months, Ramsburg said.

Manchin is up for re-election next year.

Ramsburg said the timing of the poll has more to do with the nearness of the next regular session, which begins in January.

“That’s why we’re starting this process now,” she said.

And Ramsburg said the governor likes for citizens to be able to vote on these kinds of issues.

Two years ago, as the state embarked on a $5 million renovation of the Capitol, Manchin’s office polled people on how the state landmark should look. Respondents overwhelmingly chose the old blue and gold design for the dome.

But partisan politics might also play a role in the decision to poll people on a new state slogan.

During this year’s legislative session, Republicans in the Senate and House of Delegates called on Manchin to change the wording on the welcome signs back to what it was decades ago. The “Welcome to Wild, Wonderful West Virginia” slogan lasted from 1975 to 1991.

Members of the GOP said the “Open for Business” sign was cheesy and made the state look desperate.

Republican-backed resolutions criticizing the slogan were introduced in both chambers, but failed to gain any traction.

Senate Republicans later amended their version of the resolution asking that the state Division of Tourism poll citizens. That was an idea initially proposed by Democrats.

Also, a West Virginia University student last year collected about 15,000 signatures in an online poll aimed at changing the slogan.

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