A regional council is a multi-service entity with state and locally-defined boundaries that delivers a variety of federal, state and local programs while continuing its function as a planning organization, technical assistance provider and “visionary” to its member local governments. As such, they are accountable to local units of government and effective partners for state and federal governments.
Conceived in the 1960s, regional councils today are stable, broad-based organizations adept at consensus-building, creating partnerships, providing services, problem solving and fiscal management. The role of the regional council has been shaped by the changing dynamics in federal, state and local government relations, and the growing recognition that the region is the arena in which local governments must work together to resolve social and environmental challenges.
Regional councils have carved out a valuable niche for themselves as reliable agents and many operate more independent of federal funding. Comprehensive and transportation planning, economic development, workforce development, the environment, services for the elderly and clearinghouse functions are among the types of programs managed by regional councils.
Some states, such as Georgia, have passed legislation that creates a role for regional councils, relying heavily on them to deliver or assist the state with a variety of programs. Of the 39,000 local, general purpose governments in the United States (counties, cities, townships, towns, villages, boroughs) a total of more than 35,000 are served by Regional Councils