Erin Fontaine Brunelle
Realtor, Century 21 Hometown Associates; Founder and Co-chair, Buy Holyoke Now, age 31
As a real-estate agent, Erin Brunelle was quick to share her favorite part of her job. “It’s handing someone their first set of keys. Everyone dreams about their first house, and getting to be a part of that is very rewarding.”
She’s had plenty of experience with that feeling, ranking in the top 10 in sales performance among all Century 21 offices in the area last year, handing out 21 sets of keys while posting more than $2.7 million in sales. Brunelle also helped Century 21 Hometown Associates open a new Holyoke location last year; after just a few months, that office boasts the top market share in the city.
But that’s not the only way she’s impacting home ownership in the city. Take, for example, a project she helped launch called Buy Holyoke Now.
“It’s a new homeowners initiative we launched in the city after Alex Morse was elected mayor,” she said. “We laid out why it would be important, and he was on board from day one.”
In a nutshell, Buy Holyoke Now is a collaborative effort by a network of lenders, real-estate professionals, nonprofit groups, attorneys, insurance agents, home inspectors, Holyoke Gas & Electric, and a number of other retail partners and local tourist attractions, who team up to offer discounted costs and other incentives to people who move to Holyoke.
“Just from the goal of economic development, to have tax dollars coming into the city is always a good thing,” Brunelle said, citing research suggesting that every two homes sold equals one job and $30,000 pumped into the local economy each year. The retail incentives of Buy Holyoke Now are intended to increase that figure further, by encouraging residents to direct their spending money toward locally owned businesses.
“I’m a hometown girl. I was born and raised here,” Brunelle said of her passion for the city, which extends to other civic volunteerism, including service to the Holyoke Winter Carnival and the Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley Community Service Committee; she has also decided to run for the School Committee in Ward 7. “I get upset when Holyoke gets a bad rap from people who don’t know what the city is all about. I want to alter that perception.”
— Joseph Bednar