THE number of companies in Northern Ireland doing a roaring trade rose by 15% in the past year, according to a bi-annual business index.
The latest Barclays and BGF Entrepreneurs Index confirmed the number of firms doing well, or classed as high-growth, enjoyed a "significant" rise.
However, from March 2012 to March 2013, there was a 1.2% fall in the number of enterprises across the province.
Of the total 66,685 enterprises here, almost one in five – 19.2% – are classed as high-growth, just below the national average of 23.2%.
The province had also witnessed a 2% fall in the number of active, growing companies recording share sales in the past year, to 93.
The business index tracks the entrepreneurial lifecycle across the regions of the UK, using data to measure start-ups, growth and share sales.
The producers of the index said the figure "could reflect potential investors being selective and Northern Ireland's entrepreneurs waiting for more favourable conditions to sell".
Jonathan Dobbin, regional director of Barclays Wealth and Investment Management Northern Ireland, said he believed firms in the province had firm roots.
He added: "A significant proportion of companies in Northern Ireland go on to become high-growth, indicating that these businesses have strong foundations and entrepreneurial leadership."
Andy Gregory, regional director for BGF, which provides long-term growth capital for fast-growing companies, said that although Northern Ireland has faced harsh economic times recently, he was encouraged by the index's findings.
"There is clearly room for improvement, particularly on the number of new enterprises being started – but existing business owners in Northern Ireland certainly have the ambition to expand and explore the type of growth capital BGF is able to provide to facilitate this," he said.
According to StartUp Britain – a campaign to encourage entrepreneurialism – there were 6,057 new businesses set up in Belfast during 2013.
The index said the Executive was aiming to position the region as a hub for aerospace, defence, security and space.
Number of current enterprises in Northern Ireland