11.438 | Spring 2020 | Graduate

Economic Development Planning

Professional Memorandum Assignments

Professional Memorandum #1 (due session 7)

You are the newly hired Deputy Mayor for Planning & Economic Development for Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz. He’s looking for some new ideas for moving the Glass City forward and has asked you for some ideas on economic development planning for the city. Looking at economic development in the context of other planning goals, write him a 1–2 page professional memo that describes (1) one or more ways to view the issue and (2) a few ideas to get started exploring.

Samples of Student Work

(Professional memos courtesy of the authors and used with permission.)

Professional Memorandum #2 (due session 17)

You are still the Deputy Mayor for Planning & Economic Development for Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz. He liked the ideas in your earlier memo and is especially interested in the idea of using Value Capture and/or Tax Increment Finance districts to implement them.

Putting aside Ohio state law for now, what are some concrete ideas he could try to use these planning and finance tools to make your ideas real? Provide at least one quick numerical example of how much you might collect in funds and how you might use them.

Samples of Student Work

(Professional memos courtesy of the authors and used with permission.)

How to Write a Memorandum


From: Jeff Levine
To: 11.438 Students
Date: September 4, 2019

This is a different writing form than those you see in many classes. While you may encounter it in other environments, writing a short, effective professional memorandum is actually much harder than it seems.

Start at the Top

Professional memos start with the usual header, as above:

From: [YOU]

There are some variations but that’s the basic format.


The purpose of a memo in planning practice is usually to convey important information in a brief, effective format. For this class, we will be practicing writing professional memoranda that are intended for a decision maker, and is designed to convey information in under a page! That is the hard part.

In writing a memo, it’s often best to start by figuring out what the key information is and plan on a sentence or two for each piece of it. It’s OK to prepare a draft that is too long initially. However, the key step is to figure out what you can leave out in your revisions to make the memo fit on one page. The reason to keep to a one-page limit has to do with the use of the memo. In the practicing world, often decision makers don’t have much time to digest information. They may only be able to read the first page anyway. If you write more than one page, there may be lots of lost information on those later pages that they never get to! Don’t let that happen to your important analysis and recommendations!

How Is This Possible?

Writing this way doesn’t come easily. It takes practice and more time than writing a typical five-page essay. We are not trying to become experts in this format in this class, but it is important to start thinking about writing as an exercise in saving other peoples’ time! If they want additional information, they now know you are the person to seek it from.

And, for some reason, memos often end with a statement like:

“I hope this is helpful.”


“Please let me know if you need any additional information.”

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2020
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes
Written Assignments with Examples
Instructor Insights