The bad news is Lake County's long hold on being the second-most populous county in Indiana is slipping and could be lost by 2050, according to new data from the Kelley School of Business.

The good news: Our community leaders and planners have time to take a crack at reversing the trend by cultivating quality of place.

Even better news is that a number of Region cities and towns seem to comprehend the finer points of that cultivation and already are moving in the right direction.

On The Times Sunday business cover, reporter Joseph Pete revealed a new report released by the Indiana Business Research Center and Indiana University's Kelley School of Business.

It forecasts that Lake County will be the only one of Indiana's 12-biggest counties to lose population by 2050, potentially shrinking by nearly 3 percent in that time period. That's a projected loss of more than 14,000 residents.

LaPorte County is projected to shed 5 percent of its population by 2050.

Conventional wisdom and good planning principles dictate that enhancing amenities, service and infrastructure — key components of quality of place — can help slow or even reverse such trends by attracting and retaining residents.

It's no accident within that same time period that Porter County is expected to see strong population growth more than 15 percent.

Marquee Porter County cities and towns, including Valparaiso, Chesterton and Portage, have made significant investments in quality of place in recent years.

A vibrant, walkable downtown Valparaiso is but one example.

It's not all lost in Lake or LaPorte counties, either.

Crown Point has one of the most iconic and vibrant downtown areas in the Region and has made significant investments in re-purposing derelict properties, building new development corridors and creating a youth sports complex mecca.

In the heart of the Region's urban core, Whiting has made marked improvements in quality of place amenities with an improved lakefront, family-oriented entertainment options and a tourism draw with the National Sports Mascot Hall of Fame. Hammond has its own high-end youth sportsplex in the works.

Recent Times articles have detailed investments in improving downtown areas in Portage, Lowell and Cedar Lake. And Michigan City continues to find new ways to maximize amenities of its lakefront through planning and events.

Munster, meanwhile, is building a long overdue downtown feel with its Centennial Village project.

It would be easy for Lake County residents, local government leaders and business entities to look at the Indiana Business Research data as a negative.

The proper reaction is allowing it to serve as a wake-up call to spur better planning and new ideas to improve Northwest Indiana's quality of place.