First Female President To Speak At SUU Commencement

Published: May 04, 2005 | Author: Renee Ballenger | Read Time: 4 minutes

Renee West Norton, President and Chief Operating Officer of Primm Valley Resorts (owned by MGM Mirage corporation)in Primm, Nevada, will give the keynote address at Southern Utah University’s 2005 Commencement Exercises. In her position, Norton has led the company's efforts to strategically align operations, expand marketing programs, improve profitability and implement a number of industry-leading programs. Under her direction, the company, last year, saw an increase in earnings of 30 percent.

With more than 12 years of gaming industry experience and more than 25 years of management experience, she is the only female member in the Nevada Chapter of the international Young Presidents Organization. Also, when MGM MIRAGE completes its acquisition of Mandalay Group Resort--making it the largest gaming company in the world--Norton will become the first female president of a Las Vegas Strip property.

Born in Altus, Oklahoma, Norton moved to Las Vegas at age 14. She had always been mesmerized with the gaming and resort industry, finding it exciting, dynamic and challenging. Toward the beginning of her career, she held senior training and employee development roles at Caesars Palace, and with the Station Casinos company. She also served as vice president of product and service delivery for Rapport Leadership International. As an organizational development and quality assurance consultant, Norton provided strategic planning and organizational development services for many leading Las Vegas organizations including resorts, mining companies, contractors and hospitals.

In her current position, Norton is responsible for the daily operations and strategic direction of Buffalo Bill's Resort & Casino, Primm Valley Resort & Casino, Whiskey Pete's Hotel & Casino, Primm Valley Golf Club, Primm Center and the Primm Valley Lotto Store, the most popular lotto site in the country, in terms of ticket sales.

Under Norton's leadership, Primm Valley Resorts has seen its workforce unite, its expenses drop and revenues rise. She is known for balancing initiative with diplomacy, expertise with collaboration, and possessing a keen strategic focus with attention to daily detail.

She regards the company's workforce—the Home Team--as a community in and of itself. She developed and implemented a campaign to improve employee satisfaction and loyalty--a program which reduced employee turnover and its associated costs by 62 percent over the last three years. She believes in training people, even those who do not have any prior experience in the industry.

Before being promoted to President, Norton served as vice president of human resources. In this role, she oversaw employee programs for the company's 2,800 employees in Nevada and California. Largely due to Norton’s innovation, Primm is home to the industry's first full-service on-site housing community. With options available in two and four bedroom units, and studio and one bedroom floor plans, it will be a “real community,” complete with a convenience store, recreation center, workout rooms, pool, soccer fields and barbecue pits.

Norton was also key in the MGM Mirage’s award-winning employee transportation program and its champion diversity initiatives. Norton and MGM Mirage have been praised for their sincerity and follow-thru in implementing viable diversity management policies.

Norton’s volunteer activities include fundraising for the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation, where she also worked to develop charitable partnerships between the foundation and the Clark County School District. She has donated her organizational development and leadership training services to a number of charitable institutions in the region. She has worked as a volunteer at Deskin Elementary School and a supporter of the Shadow Hills Baptist Church, Faith Lutheran Junior-Senior High School, Wednesday's Child, the Sandy Valley Community Center and HELP of Southern Nevada. She also served as education chair for the Nevada Hotel/Motel Association, responsible for identifying educational opportunities for the group's members statewide.

Outside of work, West enjoys running, biking, hiking and spending time with her family, which includes her husband, Charlie Norton, (SUU alumnus, ‘71, Physical Education, and owner of Tri T Construction in Las Vegas), three children, a son in law and one grandchild.

The Nortons are true friends of the University. Their generosity made the Charlie and Renee Norton Training Center in the Harris Athletic Complex on campus, a reality.

For her exemplary display of management savvy and sensitivity, and for her sincere support of SUU, the University is privileged to bestow upon Renee Norton, an honorary degree in Business as part of its 2005 Commencement celebration.


Through its more than 100-year history, Southern Utah University has evolved from a teacher training school into its current role as a comprehensive, regional university to 6,000 students from across the globe. It serves the southern region of Utah and contiguous counties in surrounding states with undergraduate and graduate programs in six colleges. People of the region look to the University for outreach services, culture, economic and business development, higher learning, regional history, public affairs, major academic specialties, and significant entertainment and recreation. Accentuated by the notable, economic value of its services, SUU's hallmark is its quality staff, faculty and academics.

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