If you weren’t one of the 61,516 West Virginians to weigh in on a new state welcome motto, take heart. You’ll get another chance in a few weeks.

Manchin administration spokeswoman Lara Ramsburg said Thursday that 58,855 residents voted online and through a telephone poll to adopt a permanent state slogan. Another 2,661 participates said no to the idea.

Gov. Joe Manchin decided to conduct a poll on whether to adopt a permanent slogan for the state’s 107 welcome signs alongside roads leading into the state, two years after taking some criticism over his “Open for Business” slogan. That poll ended Wednesday.

“It appears, unofficially, that the large majority of voters want a permanent slogan,” Ramsburg said in an e-mail.

The next step is to select the top “three or so” slogans and put them out for a vote. The winning slogan could be selected before Thanksgiving.

Manchin had the “Open for Business” slogan put on welcome signs shortly after he took office in 2005 as a way to encourage investment in West Virginia.

“We’ve been ranked 50th for far too long in too many good categories, and ranked first for far too long in too many bad categories,” Manchin told the Charleston Gazette. “What are we going to do? We’re going to declare we’re open for business.”

The administration will now shift though the thousands of submissions it received over the past few weeks. The top entries will then be put before state residents for another vote.

“The timing of the second vote will be determined by the amount of time it takes to code the first-round submissions and then we’ll put those out on the Web and on the phone system for another two weeks,” Ramsburg said. “We hope to have all of that completed by Thanksgiving at the latest.”

Manchin has said he will present the winning slogan to the Legislature during the 2008 session so it could be made into laws.

It’s estimated that it will cost $50,000 to replace the state’s welcome signs.

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