After observing environmental degradation to the land air and water, and fearing the dangers posed by additional threats in the future, Ken Acks, founder and CEO of the Cost Benefit Group, decided to join a growing band of researchers to gather data and analyze it with the best available models in order to assist in the determination, support and promotion of the best possible policies, programs, projects, investments and technologies. Rather than focus upon fixed one-sided answers provided by so many Mr. Acks has sought to reconcile opposing views and interests through cost-benefit analysis.
Over the years he has pulled together, or been pulled into, interdisciplinary teams of experts to support this agenda to tackle a wide range of challenging issues.
After receiving an BA in Economics at the University of Chicago and an MBA in Finance at New York University's Stern School of Business and completing a wide variety of assignments at the International Research Department of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the Participation Loan Program of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development and as a consultant in Utility Economics Mr. Acks worked to pool his knowledge and experiences in economics, the environment and real estate, and apply them to valuing environmental issues related to real estate and evaluating costs and benefits related to these issues.
The Cost Benefit Group has produced studies of 1,450 properties, projects and policies worth more than three billion dollars in 140 counties and 30 states. Our associates have also evaluated the economic and financial impacts of major power plant construction projects (worth more than $10 billion), utility rates, and environmental hazards upon employment, income, corporate balance sheets, real estate markets, municipalities and utilities. We have dealt with valuation, feasibility and other issues related vacant land; shopping centers; apartment complexes; office buildings; automobile dealerships; industrial buildings; nursing homes; a marina; and hotels.
These projects were commissioned by Citibank; Chase; the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation; Chinese American Bank; the State of New York; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, several law firms throughout the country, and other institutions.
Researchers have produced thousands of useful studies and dozens of computer models. Yet too often they are not utilized by decision makers. What is needed are means to collect as much relevant information as is feasible, to analyze it rationally, to reconcile differences, and to disseminate it cost effectively in a manner easily understood by as many people as possible.
We fulfill these ends through information systems, most notably the ACB Computerized Cost Benefit Analysis System, our acclaimed newsletter, Environmental Valuation & Cost Benefit News and a wide variety of other models. Our computerized cost benefit analysis system brings together the results of many studies, creates common denominators, and uses "meta analysis" to reconcile differences in results.
As society faces increasingly complex uncertain challenges these tools will be needed more and more. Recent court decisions, proposed and enacted legislation, and regulatory orders indicate that measures of costs, benefits, and risks are being required in the future to justify public and private actions. Our mission is to help insure that these measures are brought to bear upon problems quickly and effectively and to resolve conflicts to produce maximum benefits.
Despite significant advances, too many decisions are still based upon rigid adherence to fixed ideas, limited information, political power, and irrational emotions. Although cost benefit analysis and other frameworks for rational decision-making are being applied in more and more situations, these tools play too little a role in too many decisions--partly due to the time and funds required to implement good studies, and partly due to the power of the countervailing forces mentioned above. In addition, when these frameworks are applied the end-products generally omit significant factors or provide questionable estimates--rendering them to the dustbin of history, unless they happen to support positions of powerful proponents.