Knowledge of the changing roles of local authorities (LAs) in relation to industry would provide an important insight for development and management of industrial ecology at the regional level. Drawing on empirical studies in Sweden, this paper develops a theoretical understanding of the roles of LAs in knowledge transfer in regional environmental management networks. It is suggested that LAs, besides initiating networks and being network brokers and managers, can act as ‘knowledge banks’ or ‘knowledge brokers’. As a ‘knowledge bank’, officers in the LA hold the knowledge transferred to companies and engage closely with the companies in small active networks. As ‘knowledge brokers’, LA officers are less active and mainly help companies to get in contact with consultants and technical experts who hold the knowledge needed for developing environmental management in the companies. In all, the roles identified could be seen as more specific approaches to be taken by the LA when playing the overall role of an institutional anchor tenant, facilitating development and management of regional industrial ecosystems. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.