And Noah Smith believes that if we found enough research universities in small cities, we will have a booming economy elsewhere than the coasts for both industrial-policy and private-entrepreneurship reasons:

Noah Smith: Universities and Colleges Can Revive Declining Rural America: "Rural America is losing population, as young people move to the cities. Small towns are still home to tens of millions of people, but they skew older and lower-income.... Some of the critical industries that had supported these areas, such as coal mining, are in decline, while others, like agriculture, are increasingly automated. Many of the manufacturers that supported small factory towns have either moved overseas or turned to robots. Meanwhile, big cities are booming.... Despite population loss and aging, living in a smaller city doesn’t always make you poorer. Because housing and other living costs are so much lower, smaller cities often have cost-adjusted average salaries that are more attractive than the superstar metros... Big cities aren’t the only places to benefit from knowledge industries—ollege towns also thrive in the new economy.... College Station, Texas.... Even small towns like Pikeville, Kentucky, home to the modest University of Pikeville, are doing well.... Government money that gets routed to college towns via state subsidies and federal research grants, then spent locally... tuition fees... university research... attracting smart people to the region and drawing in private investment, research universities harness the forces of knowledge-industry clustering to increase the wealth of an entire region. There’s a good chance that these forces can be harnessed to revive parts of the rural U.S.... It’s worth a shot...