Howard County Executive Ken Ulman delivers his annual State of the County address on Thursday, Jan. 31. (Jen Rynda/BSMG)

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman Thursday described Howard County as a "model for Maryland," citing its strong school system, business-friendly environment and financial commitment to the community.

"We make the right investments in education, open space and infrastructure, thereby creating thriving, sustainable communities. Through our choices and our decisions, we have created a model for Maryland," Ulman said at his seventh State of the County address.

More than 420 people watched Ulman deliver his speech during a luncheon sponsored by the Howard County Chamber of Commerce at Turf Valley Resort and Conference Center in Ellicott City.

Ulman said he was "more confident than ever" in the future of Howard County coming out of the recent economic crisis.

"The real estate market is improving and business growth is on the rise. Your county government is leaner, more nimble, more responsive and more focused," he said.

Ulman announced that Accuvant, a cybersecurity business, is expanding its operations and relocating its Hanover office in Anne Arundel County to Howard County later this year.

Accuvant's 70 employees will move to Dorsey Business Park, in Elkridge, and the company is expected to add 180 jobs over the next two years, Ulman said.

Ulman said cybersecurity is "huge" for the future of Howard County.

Cybersecurity companies are choosing Howard County because of its school system, quality of life and business-friendly environment, Ulman said.

"There's lot of other places they could go, but they're choosing Howard County," he said.

Frank McLallen, vice president of Accuvant's public sector division, said Accuvant chose Howard County for a number of reasons, including its location and talent pool.

McLallen said it would be easier to recruit employees because of the proximity to Washington, D.C., and the high level of educated county residents.

"People want to live here," McLallen said of Howard County.

Accuvant is targeting an April opening, according to McLallen.

Ulman praised the efforts of the county's public safety personnel over the last year as they responded to significant weather events, such as Hurricane Sandy and the Ellicott City train derailment.

He also took a moment to recognize the heroism of Cpl. Craig Ream, who earlier this month pulled a woman from a burning car. Ream, who was in attendance, received a standing ovation.

Ulman said he was proud of the quality of life in Howard County, which he said attracts and grows business.

He stressed that the county has the lowest unemployment rate in the state and, for the 15th consecutive year, received a AAA bond rating, the highest possible.

"Because of our strong fiscal management, a business-friendly climate and a focus on entrepreneurship, the county is on the leading edge in Maryland," he said.

Ulman also urged in his speech that county agencies, nonprofits and private businesses "put children first" in 2013.