It is easy to talk about the beauty of Central Coast and the region’s wonderful climate.
It is much harder to carve out a career in business that both advances the cause of economic development and recognizes the essential things — quality of life, quality of environment — that make it so special.
Raymond Deutsch was one of those rare people — a man comfortable enough in his own skin and in his values to speak the language of business but also recognize regional values.
The Silicon Valley native was an architect by training, but community leadership and developing cordial relations with politicians of all persuasions were his specialty.
His death on Jan. 19, after being hospitalized a week earlier for treatment of bladder cancer, came as a shock to Santa Maria, where he had lived for decades and raised a family.
“Ray was a well-respected architect and was dedicated and loyal to his community. I knew him for more than 20 years and always found him to be interested in the economic well-being of the region,” said Bob Hatch, president of the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce.
Deutsch was involved in countless efforts to foster the technology industry in the Central Coast, including an effort to create a Santa Barbara-San Luis Obispo County technology corridor, several space technology alliances and, more recently, the Chamber of Commerce-led Santa Maria Manufacturing Association and a newer group known as EconNSBC. Earlier in his career, he was a member of the Santa Barbara County Architectural Board of Review and in recent years he had been named one of the Santa Maria affiliate members of the Santa Barbara Foundation.
Deutsch understood the role that education and access to capital play in developing technology clusters; he helped redesign eight of the Orcutt Union School District’s campuses and was a longtime member on the board of Coastal Business Finance.
He was a principal in HHD Architects until his retirement in 2003. He subsequently joined Westberg+White Architects as a senior architect and community relations director, a position he held at the time of his death.
Many times during the early years of the Pacific Coast Business Times, he went out of his way to introduce me to members of the business community. He was one of a handful of leaders who recognized that the diversity of political and economic viewpoints in Santa Barbara County were a great strength and believed that out of vigorous and sometimes ugly debates came better outcomes in the long term.
“He held a deep appreciation for the intangibles that make your community vibrant, caring and capable of being a place where people can live a life of meaning. Above all, Ray was passionately confident that your part of the world is and always [will] be a great place to live and work,” wrote Delore Zimmerman, who worked with him on the EconNSBC project.
Along with his keen sense of the intangibles, Deutsch also believed that California could do a much better job of making life just a bit easier for businesses to operate and grow and hire. He always felt that the Santa Maria Valley had tremendous economic development potential and he worked hard to figure out how to move forward.
We struggled together through some of the darkest days of the Great Recession when it was not at all obvious when our region would begin to see the turnaround we’re now experiencing.
I will miss his friendship and his get-it-done attitude and his presence at countless meetings, summits, symposiums and seminars.
If there was an event on the South Coast that involved fostering startups or innovation you could count on Deutsch to be there — and if he was there it was a lock that most of the information would be conveyed to the movers and shakers in the North County.
Having just a few relentless networkers with strong connections is essential in our region, where geography and the vagaries of traffic on Highway 101 make it hard to stay connected.
What the region will miss the most about Deutsch was his ability to forge a new connection or two every time he got on the road.
• Contact Editor Henry Dubroff at [email protected]