Economists are growing more and more restless over the American economy. They are more consistently warning that the nation may be facing much slower growth rates in the coming years than Americans have been used to. Even growth rates of as little as 3% may be behind us.

American gross domestic product (GDP) is estimated to grow at a rate of 2.3% each year. This may seem great, since that is no longer declining like in the first quarter, but compare that to the 3.4 growth rate seen between 1980 and 2000. These numbers mean that the children in the current middle class will see lower standards of living than their parents.

GDP is the broadest measure taken of how much an economy can produce. It’s determined by how much private and public money can be invested, by how many people are employed, and by productivity growth. The faster the growth, the more opportunity there is, and in an ideal economy, upward mobility would not only be possible, it would be probable.

Worries are stemming from the government’s debt and budget deficits, and lack of planning for solutions to these issues. These gaps are causing a decrease in funding for the most basic things that necessary to invest in: education, research, and infrastructure. Education is perhaps the biggest concern, since many employers say the lack of job growth is due to a lack of skilled workers.

Looking at specific states is also concerning. Maryland, for example, is falling behind even the dismal national outlook. The GDP only grew by 0.8%, raising it to about $321.3 billion. This is well behind the 2.2% national gain.

Most states have seen growth, led by North Dakota and Texas. However, three states in addition to Maryland that are lagging: Virginia, which had no change at all, Mississippi, which fell by 1.2%, and Alaska, which fell by 1.3%.

The biggest problem facing America right now is the number of baby boomers retiring, combined with a relatively small number of Americans entering the workforce. The U.S. has gone from a 1.5% growth in the labor force in the 80s and 90s to just 0.5% today. The nation also faces a decrease in investments due to government regulations and the effects of those regulations on their investments once people do decide to invest. There is also more caution in financials due to the unpredictability of recent financial climates.

Perhaps more focus is needed on fixing the basis of the economy: education, infrastructure, and research. Or, Americans could put their investments into industries that they know are growing, such as coffee shops, which have an annual growth rate of 7%. In fact, Baltimore will be seeing more shops very soon, thanks to a new project.

A new trend is seeing churches being turned into art and retail spaces.

“There’s a lot of churches that are saddled with these huge buildings, and they’re trying to figure out what to do with them,” said the Rev. Karyn Wiseman, a Methodist liturgical scholar who teaches at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.

The solution? Offering space to emerging artists to practice, perform, exhibit or even reside. Some have opened coffee shops, music venues, offices or galleries that double as worship space in order to generate income and keep the building active. Perhaps this will be the solution Maryland needs to start pulling ahead once again.