May 7, 2020

Jim O’Connor of Norton Retires July 1

After a distinguished career spanning 41 years with Norton Company and Saint-Gobain, Jim O’Connor, Director National Distribution, Sales & Marketing, Abrasives North America, has decided to retire, effective July 1, 2020.

Jim’s career started in 1979 as a sales trainee, and upon graduation would be promoted and move 3 times over the next 7 years. After first landing in Kalamazoo, MI, he moved to Grand Rapids, MI, and was then promoted to a territory in Hartford CT, where he had responsibility for Pratt & Whitney Aircraft.

In 1986, Jim moved to New Jersey and took his first management role as Assistant District Sales Manager for NYC metro area. Within 6 months, he was promoted again, moved to Philadelphia, PA and served as District Sales Manager for the next 3 years.

Jim’s next move took him to Canada where he lived in Burlington, ON, and served as the National Sales Manager for Canada. During this time, he also took on additional responsibilities including overseeing Bonded Manufacturing in Hamilton, ON as well the role of Business Manager for the Pulpstone business, which at the time was Norton’s most profitable business segment.

In 1994, 6 moves and 15 years after joining SGA, Jim made his last move to Atlanta, GA. Over the next 26 years, he built an extensive resume of wins in various roles including, Dir., Norton Construction; National Sales Manager, Welding; RSM, Stock Solutions; and his current role of Dir, National Distribution.

It was during these years that Jim made his largest mark on our business and picked up the nickname “The Rainmaker”.

  • Oversaw United Rentals and grew them to become our largest construction distributor in sales.
  • Grew a new channel for Norton, Metal Fabrication to record revenues by bringing on 3 major welding buying groups and launching our long term  relationship with Airgas.
  • Managed our largest distribution relationships including MSC, Grainger and Fastenal and rooted the Norton brand within these houses.
  • Jim was the king of the weekend tradeshow circuit where he relentlessly
  • represented Norton with creative presentations and social networking using his creativity for “creating memorable experiences” that are still referenced today.

Jim’s business acumen, relentless energy for relationship building and negotiation skills are rarely matched. His winning attitude and work ethic will remain high water marks in our organization that we will continue to strive to. Jim has also hired, mentored, managed, and coached so many of our current and future leaders and we are grateful for the gifts he has shared, business he has grown, and relationships he has nourished over these 41 years of service.

In retirement, Jim plans to stay in Atlanta with his wife Dedra, where they will play golf and tennis, and travel to see their four children, Sean, Caroline, Jordan and Annabelle.

Please join me in thanking Jim for over four decades of service and wish him a wonderful retirement.


Pat Baliva

Director of Strategy, National Accounts