The methodology used in the article is based on MSA, not on the city. So in summary, this article is factually very misleading at best. No, Raleigh does not have a 1.3M population. Maybe 450,000 +/-. The article erroneously lists the Raleigh MSA (formerly the Raleigh-Cary MSA) population next to the city. you can find the fact-based numbers from Municipal Population Change in North Carolina. Conway SC is part of the Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, SC-NC MSA, which as of 2015 includes Brunswick county NC. As an exercise, you can explore how much of the +22.6% increase (#2 in the fastest growing list at the link you posted) was added by changing the MSA in 2015 to include a NC county.
When looking at NC population growth in cities, annexation plays an important part. For example, Apex NC has 40%+ of its population growth due to annexation.
What city is best depends on many factors (other than just MFR) and without knowing what you are doing (new apartment development?), no one can answer your question.
After looking at several of the "fastest growing cities" stats all published by different agencies/companies its funny that they all seem to have a different order of where its growing or what is the best/worst place to invest. My belief is to get the best return, you would almost need to do the research on large companies or industries are planning on moving to an area, and get in at that point, when prices are the lowest. By the time most of the researchers evaluate and publish their stat's and findings, the property values have already been raised significantly so you wont see as great of a return due to coming into the market on the back side of the boom. Conway, SC is growing, but then again so is every city in this general area. Since Conway is a little further from the ocean than say Myrtle Beach or North Myrtle, means that the prices are a little lower. But then again so is the rental market. Also like Chris was saying, the population of the city does determine a lot. Everything from growth to crime rates are effected by the size alone. Take and add 50k people and 50k robberies to a city that has a population of 2 million, and it would barely be noticeable. Add those same numbers to a city with 50k people (close to the population of Myrtle Beach) and your looking at a war zone that is seeing some "significant growth".
Hi Max -
Yes as Chris said I am happy to help share my perspective but let us know what your criteria is including for best and worst.