I just wanted to add a little more to this thought as it played a very big part for us.
Madison is a hip, fun, accepting town that to me is very similar to the CO front range, Portland, Boston, Austin, Seattle (other fun cities with a similar type vibe), but at a fraction of the cost with only somewhat reduced income capabilities.
In Madison, you can still but a very nice starter home in a good neighborhood for 150-200k, and only be 10min to eveything you want on your daily life.
The cost of living is very cheap relative to the wages (lots of good sci, engineering, IT, tech & those obviously help support the service and trades also). To me, this all seems to happen due to the natural geographical constraint of a city being placed between 2 lakes on an isthus (cool and unique it its own right).
The schools and education all the way through post graduate is some of the best in the US in such a small area. Madison is definitely a middle sized but booming town with tons of growth potential (which makes it a great place to invest in your family now).
Many other cities we researched seemed past the boom (or at l;east where we could afford to be part of it rather than fighting to catch up). We would be behind the game to jump in and competing with too much old town money while trying to carve out our notch.
By and large Madison has allowed us to afford a very solid middle class lifestyle but also importantly, the ability to save enough for retirement and travel to lots of other places.
My brother lives in the front range and makes comparable (adjusted for location) wages to us in Madison. He is constantly hustling and does the majority of his travel in the immediate region because his money does not go as far. We get to adventure all over the world due to the cheaper day to day life here.
I always joke that if you dont like winter, then it is a small sacrifice, esp when you have plenty of travel budget to blow off the worst 2 weeks and take a vacation to reset the clock (makes winter feel almost too short for me, but nice to get some mid-winter Vit D)