by Emily Sprewell and Colton Campbell
Jason Norton has always been an entrepreneur. Just ask his elementary school teachers.
When he was in the fifth grade, Norton borrowed an Oriental Trading catalog from his mom and ordered a few items in bulk. He resold the toy trinkets to his classmates at school – with enough markup to turn a profit, of course.
While that career was short-lived, his neighborhood lawncare business began the summer after sixth grade, so it’s safe to say his entrepreneurial spirit runs deep.
Norton has leveraged that entrepreneurial spirit – and a degree from the University of West Georgia – to launch two firms: one focused on financial advising and the other on commercial real estate holdings. And now, he’s pledged to give to his alma mater in the form of a gift to support the building of a new facility to house the Richards College of Business.
“I’m always looking for opportunities to give, but it has to make sense and be meaningful,” said Norton, who graduated in 2004. “I see my peers and the people who I graduated alongside giving to the university, and that’s started a kind of network of philanthropy I’m honored to be part of. It just feels like the right thing to do.”
In addition to Norton's generous gift to support the new Roy Richards Sr. Hall, he has established the Norton Family Economics Endowed Scholarship, which will support a high-achieving student majoring in economics.
"I made a decision that I didn't want to be aged or deceased in order for our resources to be helping others; I wanted to see it happen now," Norton said.
A transfer student who came to UWG for his last two years of undergraduate work, Norton credits the Richards College of Business as a major selling point for the university. While majoring in economics, Norton also served on the staff of The West Georgian, UWG’s student-run newspaper, and participated in other student organizations while working part time all the way through school.
Now, 15 years later, Norton serves as the founder and CEO of Norton Financial Inc., a financial advising firm based in Carrollton, as well as the owner of Norton Properties.
“I am indebted to the University of West Georgia and what I learned there for laying the groundwork for my success,” Norton said. “In the economics program, I had the opportunity to take a lot of different types of classes – from personal finance to international economics – that really opened my eyes to how the real world works.”
Norton wants that eye-opening experience for future UWG students, and he believes Richards Hall will be the perfect place for that to happen.
The design of the building is centered around three words: corporate, classic and connected. To that end, Richards Hall will showcase a clean architectural design with classic references and ample opportunities for student interaction with new technologies.
The new building will be situated near the intersection of Maple Street and University Drive, with a groundbreaking ceremony taking place earlier this semester. The current expected completion date is summer 2021.
Included in the 67,000-square-foot facility will be a dozen classrooms ranging in sizes from a 24-seat seminar classroom to a 105-seat lecture hall; an expanded lab to serve management information systems students; and 13 collaborative learning spaces open for use by students, faculty and staff.
“My main hope is that this facility will continue to attract highly qualified prospective students to UWG for years to come,” Norton said. “I was drawn to this university because of the Richards College of Business, and I’m humbled that I can be part of possibly attracting the next generation of students to UWG in the same way.”