Modesto business leaders to discuss economy

Residents are invited to have a conversation with local business leaders April 1 about the region's economy, real estate and health care at "The Economy and You: Navigating the System."

Free and open to the public, the event's goal is to give people more details about the local economy, how they can fix and rebuild their finances, or even take advantage of the sputtering economy, said Jason Gordo, chief executive of Valley Wealth, a Modesto financial planning company organizing the event.

The guest speakers will be David Benn, regional president of Sutter Health; Dan Costa, chief executive of 5.11 Tactical; and Mike Zagaris, chief executive of PMZ Real Estate. They'll give short comments, then take questions from the audience.

"Hopefully it'll help people plan for the future. It's a chance for people to get a better understanding of what has happened in the economy and learn about the tactics successful business people have used," Gordo said.

Last year's event was well received and drew about 700 people, Gordo said. This year, the question-and-answer period with keynote speakers has been extended, and other leaders will hold four breakout sessions on local real estate, investments, estate planing, and economic crime and ID theft prevention. That will give attendees more one-on-one access to experts, Gordo said.

Zagaris didn't want to reveal the "secret ingredient" of his talk, but said he wanted to give people some information and strategies to help them recover.

"These are, to say the least, extraordinary times," he said. "People are thirsting for knowledge and information on how to deal with and cope with the circumstances they find themselves in."

The April 1 forum will start at 6 p.m. at the Gallo Center for the Arts in downtown Modesto. For free tickets, call 579-5900 or go to

Bee staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached at or 578-2339.