Regional councils in North Carolina are the result of 1969 legislation that charged the Department of Administration with developing ". . .a system of multi-county regional planning districts to cover the entire state" (GS 143-341) after Congress passed the Intergovernmental Cooperation Act in 1968 calling for closer cooperation between federal programs and state and local governments.
By 1970, an executive order had designated 17 regions in North Carolina. In 1971, the state announced its Lead Regional Organization policy that directed state agencies to deal with a single regional organization in each designated region of the state for the delivery of services in several departments.
Regional councils have been operating in the state since 1972 although many were organized long before the official state designation. On July 1, 2011 Regions G and H merged into one region - (G) Piedmont Triad Regional Council - bringing the total down to 16 regional councils serving the state.
Regional councils provide a wide variety of programs and services to their local governments and residents. The nature and extent of the programs vary, depending on local needs and the priorities of the board that governs the council.
The councils aid, assist and improve the capabilities of local governments in various ways including but not limited to: administration, planning, fiscal management, community and economic development, grant writing, and serving as a convener for regional issue management.
Each regional council maintains a core staff and all 16 are involved in providing technical assistance to their members. One extremely important aspect of this technical assistance is the provision of current information on state and federal programs of concern to local governments. Through constant contact with state and federal agencies, regional councils are able to analyze trends and advise their members on program changes and the availability of funding or programs that are important to their local governments.
In many regions, local governments may also contract for additional technical assistance in specialized areas or contract to provide ongoing assistance (as in planning) on a part-time basis.
All regional councils administer state funds for community and economic development, serve as area agencies on aging and are affiliates of the NC State Data Center.