The National Association of Regional Councils (NARC), then called the National Service to Regional Councils (NSRC), was created in 1965 by the National League of Cities and the National Association of Counties to respond to the professional and legislative needs of America’s emerging, multi-purpose, multi-jurisdictional organizations of local governments. By 1967, the more than 350 Regional Councils in the country were at the forefront of forging regional alliances for the purpose of addressing common, multi-jurisdictional challenges. These organizations are known as regional planning agencies, development districts and councils of governments, among other names. It was in 1967 that NARC became an independent entity for regions.
Today, Regional Councils have retained their identity but their role has changed dramatically. Of the more than 500 Regional Councils throughout the country, some include Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO). More than 400 MPOs have been established to serve as urban regional transportation entities in areas with a population of 50,000 or more. Some MPOs are extensions of Regional Councils, and slightly more than half are stand-alone organizations responsible for fulfilling federal and state metropolitan transportation planning requirements. A board of elected officials and other community leaders typically governs each Regional Council and MPO.
NARC supports its membership by advocating and representing their interests on national issues, with the U.S. Congress and the Executive Branch. The function of the Regional Council and the MPO has been shaped by changing dynamics in federal, state and local government relations, and the recognition that the region is the arena in which local governments must work together to address challenges – social, economic, workforce, transportation, emergency preparedness, environmental and others. Additionally, Regional Councils and MPOs are often called upon to deliver various federal, state programs that require a regional approach, such as, transportation or comprehensive planning, services for the elderly and clearinghouse functions.
Regional Councils and MPOs have learned to be entrepreneurial due to shifts in priorities for federal funds. These organizations are experienced collaborators, adept at bringing people together and getting results. States are relying more on these organizations as vehicles for engaging local governments and delivery of programs.
Regional Councils and MPOs are a national network of experienced professionals dedicated to solving problems the regional way!