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Utah County residents with questions or complaints about area businesses will soon be able to share their concerns with a Provo office, instead of having to make a telephone call to Salt Lake City.

The Better Business Bureau plans to open an office in the Provo area by January, said Bill Beadle, president of the BBB. Numerous phone calls coming from Utah County to the BBB Salt Lake office have made it apparent residents want a service there, he said.Provo businessman Gordon Bullock, recently appointed as the BBB Utah County membership director, said, "What's happening now is that individuals are calling with a complaint or question, and in some instances, it is better for them to come into an office, discuss the matter with someone and file a report."

Having the BBB in town protects established, honest and ethical businesses and discourages business practices that do not follow the bureau's guidelines, he said.

"Businesses come to the area, sweep through taking orders and money, and then do not provide what they have promised," Bullock said.

"People have limited recourse when that happens. We want to encourage them to do business with reputable businesses."

Bullock said the Utah County BBB already has 102 members, but 200 members are needed to open an office.

"We need to pump up the volume and get more members to get it open right away," Beadle said.

The BBB is an independent non-profit organization that gets its financial support from the business sector.

No funds from any governmental entity come to the BBB since it is operated as a self-regulating organization.

Annual membership dues are based on a "fair share" formula related to the total number of employees. The average membership fee is $170, Beadle said.

"I believe that Utah County, with a population of 250,000 plus, needs the many services that will be provided by a local branch office," Bullock said. "It's an investment for businesses as opposed to an expenditure."

Beadle said about 95 of the 102 members represent small businesses. Banks and several hospitals in the county have also joined.

Utah Valley Regional Medical Center and Orem Community Hospital donated $1,400 in August to help sponsor the BBB and bring an office to the area.

"We are pleased to be able to help in the effort to get our own Better Business Bureau office here in the area," said Mark Howard, executive director of the two hospitals.

"People should have somewhere to turn when they feel they've been cheated or not given the service they believe they are due," he said.

"With a local office it will make it easier to keep those who would cheat the consumer from locating in our area."