Determined not to be left behind in attracting emerging ventures while also seeking to help grow businesses, the City of Morrisville is launching its own new business accelerator program.

Called HOTTovation, the program is a Morrisville Chamber of Commerce project that will be overseen by Carlotta Ungaro, who directs the Chamber.

Morrisville is building off its “HOTT” marketing theme, or Heart of the Triangle.

Companies selected to participate in the program will be called ‘HOTTies.”

HOTTovation is also part of a broader brand that Ungaro hopes to formally launch in February called the Morrisville Innovation Foundation.

The HOTT efforts reflects efforts by other Triangle cities anbd private entities within those markets to encourage new business development. From the Bull City Stampede in Durham to the recent launch of The HUB in Raleigh, new business accelerator and incubator programs are springing up on a regular basis.

“This is definitely an accelerator,” Ungaro told WRAL news about HOTTovation.

Businesses selected will receive free office space and other support. SCORE, a longtime Chamber member, will provide mentoring services to startups.

In a Q&A, Ungaro talks about the program – its mission and how it works.

How can this program enhance economic development?

So many people in this area have great ideas they want to turn into businesses but they often don’t know how to start a business, where to find funding, or even have a clear understanding of who their customer is. We want to do our part in helping good ideas turn into jobs and investment for Morrisville by making sure there is a community of support for the start-ups and that people know about it. We hope that our program may provide that entrepreneur-wannabe the motivation, support and community to take that idea to market.

Why the focus on entrepreneurs and new companies?

We are focusing on start-ups because we want the secret to get it out – Morrisville is a great location with a nurturing environment to support start-ups. Morrisville is known for attracting larger, more established companies. What could be a better place for start-ups than locating near bigger firms that could possibly provide mentoring, incubation and, even better, a customer base?

Various startup focused hubs have sprung up across the Triangle. How does Morrisville plan to compete with other centers? What will set yours apart?

Supporting entrepreneurs is not just a local trend but a national trend.

We are actually modeling our HOTTies contest on the Durham Chamber’s Bull City Start-up Stampede. When Casey Steinbacher [president and CEO of the Durham Chamber] talked to our group, she cautioned that the structure of this program works but you have to take your community’s assets and use them and that may be different than Durham. I think we can all agree that Morrisville and Durham are different.

We are leveraging our existing business base for support. We have also formed partnerships with many of the existing service providers instead of reinventing the wheel. CED was the first at the table and we are the first Chamber to set up this type of partnership with them. They are providing support with training programs and hosting meetings in the Morrisville area and we will work to market those on their behalf. SCORE has long been our partner and they will continue helping with business plans and strategic planning. Wake Tech will work with us to identify grants so the five people selected for the HOTTies program can have access to many of their programs. We also just confirmed partnering with TiE which has an incredible mentoring network and is an organization that many people in Morrisville’s Indian and Asian community know.

Who came up with the nickname HOTT? What do you like about it?

Council Member Steve Rao came up with the idea. We were at lunch one day trying to think of a name for the program.

I was adamant about using the Morrisville’s tag line, “Heart of The Triangle” somehow without making the name too long. Steve identified that the acronym for Heart of the Triangle was HOTT. He started singing that song from the 80s, Hot, Hot, Hot and that was it.

The entrepreneur initiative become HOTTovation and the contest became HOTTies.

Why did you decide to partner with SCORE?

SCORE has been a Chamber partner shortly after we moved into our current building in 2002. They use our space every Wednesday to meet with people about starting up businesses, many that we send to them for help. Last year, before we even had HOTTovation on paper, SCORE asked if there was more they could do. They began providing monthly articles which we post on our website and push out through our e-news and social media. They also are available to speak on topics and we plan to use that service with HOTTovation.

With the other partners such as the Council for Entrepreneurial Developmen?

The CED is a natural partner on this. Joan Siefert-Rose was one of the first people when I arrived her in May 2011. When we started laying out what we could do for the competition winners, I went to Joan and asked her if she was interested in providing some of the support. She loved the idea and the partnership was born.

What exactly does HOTTIES mean – the companies selected?

HOTTies is to Morrisville as “Stampede” is to Durham. It’s a great marketing name for our competition. Five ideas/people will be selected based on their entries. The winners will receive free office space and furniture, internet and access to numerous tools to assist them in forming and supporting their ideas. HOTTies that attend sessions, workshops and share what they learn will “graduate”. At graduation, we will work closely to connect them with funding sources and identify a mentor for that person/business to it to the next level. The class to start in February will be our first. Our goal is to host two five-month sessions a year starting in 2014

Would you define the center as an incubator? Accelerator?

This is definitely an accelerator. The space is donated and is likely to change for the next class.

Is there a name for the center itself?

No, the entrepreneur program is HOTTovation. HOTTies is a program under HOTTovation. Additional programs for HOTTovation are still in the planning stages and will be announced at the February 8 meeting.