Carlotta Ungaro has spent four years as president of the Morrisville Chamber of Commerce, growing membership and starting new programs.
This month, she heads to Georgia to lead the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce, located in an Atlanta suburb. She grew up in southern Georgia, and her husband is from Fayette County.
Her last day at the chamber was Jan. 31, the day after the chamber’s annual meeting.
She said she will miss Morrisville but is proud of her achievements, including growing the chamber’s membership to about 350 members; starting the non-profit Morrisville Innovation Foundation; and hosting an entrepreneurial incubation program called HOTTovation.
“Morrisville is known for the big office parks, but we have a lot of budding entrepreneurs here,” Ungaro said. “So we try to find them and bring them together.”
Town Council member Steve Rao sat on the Innovation Foundation’s steering committee and said it took a leader such as Ungaro to get it off the ground.
“The networking events are getting a lot more attendance,” he said. “I’m getting a lot more calls from around the region saying, ‘I’m an entrepreneur, how do I get started?’ And Carlotta was crucial to that.”
The HOTTovation program was inactive last year due to a lack of space, but both Rao and Ungaro said they hope it will resume within several months.
Under Ungaro, the chamber also took on the role of acting as Morrisville’s economic development arm. Most cities in Wake County employ a town staff member for that job, but Morrisville contracted the work out.
Ungaro’s tenure saw two major businesses come to town, Teleflex and Aerocrine, employing a combined 500 people.
She said that despite the town’s small size, and being mostly “landlocked” by Cary’s borders, it has the amenities needed to attract major employers.
“Morrisville is blessed because the schools here are some of the best in the area, and there’s a high quality of life,” Ungaro said.
And she thinks there’s chances for more. The town’s economic development website gets about 160 hits a month she said, mostly from international IP addresses.
Brazil, in particular, seems interested, she said. But why?
“I have no idea,” she said. “But the page they look at most is ‘available sites,’ which tells me they’re interested.”
As for existing companies, Ungaro said, their main wish is not sites to develop, but rather direct flights overseas and to California. She said she lost out on recruiting one company, which she declined to name, that spurned Morrisville because of RDU’s lack of direct flights.
The chamber recently voted to support RDU’s official push by the airport to add more international flights.
But despite occasional losses, Ungaro told the Town Council recently that the Morrisville business community is doing well.
Despite a net loss of one business last year, she said, the 829 businesses registered inside Morrisville are mostly stable, or even growing.
“Park West Village has built close to 66,000 square feet in the last four years,” she said. “And Perimeter Park has built 500,000 square feet of office space in the past year.”
Ungaro said she hopes the chamber is able to find her replacement soon.
In the meantime, Wake County Economic Development will assist the chamber and the town in any pressing business issues, Ungaro said.
Members of the Morrisville Town Council wished her farewell, saying they will miss her work with the chamber, with economic development, with public policy discussions and with civic groups. She was also a member of the Morrisville Rotary Club and Morrisville Community Foundation.
Mayor Mark Stohlman said whether Ungarro was acting as chamber director or as a voice for the business community, she excelled.
“It’s really amazing when you think of the progress the chamber’s taken,” Stohlman said.