The article deals with the role of regional development agencies. The author identifies two idealtypes of agency: the first one aims at attracting direct investments via financial incentives and the second focuses on the provision of local competition goods and of external economies. Looking at some empirical cases, the author underlines that both types of agencies can trigger local economic development. At the same time, looking at them more in details advantages and shortcomings of each models emerge. Finally, the possible role of this kind of organization in promoting socio-economic development of the Italian
Mezzogiorno is taken into account.