Okay... I think I'm done.
Last upgrade was a Forge bpv to hopefully avoid boost leak issues that sometimes happen with the stock plastic unit. It's an easy swap, and not terribly expensive. I bought my from bostonmotorsports.com, which has the best price and free (fast to me) shipping.
I hope this thread helps a few others in the future. It was fun taking everyone's input and coming up with the right approach (for me at least). I've summarized my experience in the original post for posterity. Thanks again to everyone.