Cold weather cities and regions in the U.S. have been relatively uncompetitive for some years. In "Smart Growth: Education, skilled workers and the cold-weather cities", Ed Glaeser finds links between human capital and growth and looks for an exogenous indicator and picks the number of local higher education establishments. (While the schools tend to be in place and established, their growth may be responsive to local conditions.)
Glaeser's analysis also points to the common sense guides for city growth: do not overregulate, lower taxes, fix the schools, limit crime.
Trouble is that the "educated classes" are also responsible for the crackpot policies that undermine Glaeser's policy guide. University communities (Berkeley, Madison, Cambridge, Austin, Tucson come to mind) often breed the silliest policies (rent controls, "living-wage" agreements and much weirder stuff like Berkeley's nuclear-free zone status, to name just a few).
Education can be a funny thing. Looking at its policy underside in more detail is a research agenda strongly suggested by Glaeser's findings.