HARTFORD, CT — More than 2,000 realtors received a pep talk Tuesday from University of Connecticut basketball coach Geno Auriemma.
“You are in the recruiting business,” Auriemma, who has coached the UConn women’s basketball team to 11 national titles, told the crowd. “You need to give them a reason to pick you.”
Auriemma was the keynote speaker at an event in Bushnell Park organized by the Connecticut Realtors Association. The theme of the event, which took place in the shadow of the state Capitol, was “Give us a Connecticut to sell.”
The event, according to the association, comes “at a crucial point in our state’s budget discussions — to encourage our elected officials to make the tough decisions and give us a Connecticut to sell.”
Many of the realtors in the audience held up signs promoting the event’s themes, which were: business growth, creating new jobs, and cutting state spending.
Auriemma, who is known for being candid, didn’t mince words.
“I’ve lived in Manchester for 32 years,” Auriemma, who is registered as an unaffiliated voter, told his audience. But he added that if he was the age of his children, in their mid-20s, “I wouldn’t live here (in Connecticut).”
“When you have a choice, you’re going to choose what’s best for you,” he said.
Auriemma, 63, who has coached at UConn since 1985, told the throng of realtors that they needed to do a better job lobbying the General Assembly to get them to hear their message of cutting spending and creating jobs.
“You are the largest team in Connecticut and one of the largest in the world,” Auriemma said, “but are you the best team in Connecticut?”
He added: “I’m not running for anything, nor do I want to, but tell me what has been done around here the last 20 years to make your job easier?” Auriemma asked the realtors. He quickly answered his own question: “How about nothing. How about nothing?”
The crowd of realtors roared its approval — as a group of about two dozen legislators sat behind Auriemma on the makeshift stage listening.
Auriemma said when he first arrived at UConn he was shocked that Connecticut was “the richest state in the country and we had this piece of [expletive] university.”
“There was garbage all over the campus,” Auriemma said.
Over time, Auriemma said, not only did the basketball program become a national powerhouse, but the state’s flagship university built Gampel Pavilion, other new buildings, and “the campus started to look beautiful.”
“And all of a sudden you couldn’t find a piece of a paper on campus,” Auriemma said.
Connecticut Realtor’s Association President Michael Barbaro said Tuesday’s event was necessary because realtors across the state feel “like we aren’t being heard.”
“It is time for us to come together and leave politics at the door,” Barbaro said. “Growth is the only thing that can bring us out of where we are today.”
Home sales across Connecticut registered a modest gain in March, but the activity provided only a tentative entrance into the all-important spring home buying season.
Single-family home sales in the Nutmeg state increased by 1.9 percent in March, according to the latest report from The Warren Group, publisher of The Commercial Record.
A total of 2,207 single-family homes were sold in Connecticut during the month of March compared with 2,165 sold in March 2016. The median price of a single-family home increased 2.2 percent to $230,000, compared with $225,000 a year ago.
Year to date, there were 6,064 single-family home sales in 2017, compared to 5,696 over the first three months of 2016 — a 6.5 percent increase. Over the same period, the median price was $225,500 in 2017, down slightly from $227,000.
“Home sales, and the prices of those sales, showed some very modest gains in the first quarter of 2017,” said Timothy Warren, CEO of The Warren Group.
Additionally, a recent U.S. Census report shows more than 575 Connecticut residents per week are packing up and moving out. Between July 1, 2015 and July 1, 2016, Connecticut’s total resident population fell by 8,278 people.
“You know that people are leaving Connecticut,” House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, told the realtors. “That’s not spin; that’s reality.”
“We need to grow a set,” Klarides told the approving the crowd, alluding to tough budget choices that face the General Assembly as it faces as multi-billion dollar budget deficit.
Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, told the realtors that Democrats and Republicans need to work together on the difficult budget issues to beat back “the rooting for failure club.”
Duff, who is a realtor himself, said it is important to remember “that Connecticut is still a great place to live, work, and to raise a family.”