According to the newest U.S. Bank Small Business Annual Survey, entrepreneurs across the country are encouraged, sensing growth opportunities and preparing for capital investments.

“Business owners are gaining confidence in the economy. For most owners, the recession is long over and now they're making plans to expand,” said John Elmore, vice chairman of Consumer and Business Banking at U.S. Bank.

Small business owners, in fact, are more optimistic than any other time during the survey’s eight-year history. The positive sentiment is exemplified by the owners' self-assessment: 80 percent of those surveyed describe their own business as strong, another historical high for the survey. In addition, 38 percent report higher revenues, more than at any time in the past eight years.

With the 2016 election complete, 18 percent of small business owners feel that the economy is in an expansion, up from 9 percent a year ago. Owners expect the trend to continue, with 28 percent predicting the economy will be in an expansion by early 2018.

Four out of 10 owners said they plan to make a capital expenditure to expand their business in the next year. One fourth also expect to increase their staff, despite the challenge of finding skilled workers.

There are still challenges, however. For example, 61 percent of respondents report having difficulty finding quality employees.

The survey of 3,200 small business owners within U.S. Bank's 25-state national footprint (including Washington) was conducted in January and February 2017. Respondents all had less than $10 million in annual revenue, with half under $200,000.