Johnny Mercer was born in Savannah, Ga., a half-century after the Civil War ended. In time, he became a singer and a songwriter, and moved to Hollywood.
Shortly before his death in 1976, civic boosters in Savannah dusted off one of his tunes, “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive,” and adopted it as a promotional song for the city. The song begins:
You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between
Accentuating the positive worked. Although the city has less than one-tenth of the population of West Virginia, more than 12 million people visit Savannah each year, spending more than $2 billion a year on lodging, food and entertainment. This means 17,000 jobs.
By contrast, tourism is a $5 billion a year industry in West Virginia.
West Virginia is beginning to accentuate the positive. The Department of Commerce released a new video by West Virginia Radio Corp. entitled “My State, My Life.”
The video is aimed at giving hope to young West Virginians. The pitch to middle school and high school students is that the way to a good job and a good life is to learn a trade or get a college diploma.
And yes, unlike previous generations of West Virginia, today’s young West Virginian do not have to move away once they complete their post-high school education; the jobs are here and they are increasing.
“This is my state, West Virginia. It’s my home. Some say it’s old, some say it’s tired. They tell me there’s nothing here. Some say it’s sad or behind the times. But you know what? They are wrong. This is my state, and this is my life,” a young male narrator says in the video.
The images shown are occasionally bleak, but emphasis is on the state’s growing economy. We need a well-trained and motivated work force to keep that going.
The state should follow that up in tourism promotions and in its appeals to get companies to invest here.
It worked in Savannah. Why not here?