Almost 90% of Northern Ireland small businesses polled in a new survey say they are either growing or stable and many intend to recruit in the months ahead.
The Bank of Ireland UK survey carried out by Ipsos MRBI also found 68% of small to medium enterprises surveyed are optimistic about growth in the second half of 2014.
Around 63% of SMEs are more confident about the situation facing their business over the next 12 months compared to the past 12 months, and just over half think employment levels and the Northern Ireland economy in general are set to improve in the year ahead. The survey comes as Bank of Ireland UK launches Enterprise Week, which runs from May 16 to 23.
Nearly a quarter of the 75 businesses surveyed said they expected to recruit new staff in 2014.
Asked about the biggest opportunities in the year ahead, 21% cited increased demand from customers, while 12% cited economic growth.
Asked in the survey how banks could play a role in enabling enterprise in Northern Ireland, the top responses were providing business start-up packages, promotion of business products and services in branch, access to networking events, insight into local economies and the provision of credit. The positive results follow other surveys including the Ulster Bank's monthly purchase manager's index and the InterTradeIreland quarterly Business Monitor which have shown that a recovery appears to be well under way.
Ian Sheppard, head of business and corporate banking for Bank of Ireland in Northern Ireland, said that confidence, ambition and growth were the overwhelming findings in the survey.